Operating a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is any building or part of a building, such as a flat, where all of the following apply:

  • at least three people live there, forming more than one household
  • at least one amenity (such as the bathroom, or kitchen facilities) is shared with other tenants
  • it's the tenants' main or only home.

Both commercial and residential properties can be used as HMOs.

Any building converted into self-contained flats may also be a HMO if all the following are true:

  • it was converted before the 1991 Building Regulations, and still doesn't meet those regulations
  • at least a third of the flats are on short term tenancies. 

  • A household can be a single person or a group that includes any of the following members:

    • married or unmarried partner of the same or opposite sex
    • parent
    • grandparent
    • child
    • stepchild
    • grandchild
    • brother or sister
    • uncle or aunt
    • nephew, niece or cousin
    • foster child
    • relations by half-blood
    • live-in carer or live-in domestic staff.

HMO landlords need to pay Council Tax for the property. However, the definition of a HMO for Council Tax purposes is different, so check if you need to pay Council Tax as a HMO landlord.

Local and national standards

The property must also meet local standards based on its room size and amenities, as well as national Housing Health and Safety Rating System standards.

Royal Borough of Greenwich HMO standards

Housing Health and Safety System guidance for professionals (Gov.UK)

Who is responsible for managing a HMO

The person receiving rent from the HMO is responsible for it. Rent could be in the form of money or other exchange. For example, if you provide accommodation for staff you employ, part of the work the person does is considered a rental payment.

The person responsible can engage another person or company to manage the HMO.

If the HMO is a leasehold unit within a building (such as a self-contained flat in a block of flats), the freeholder of the building still needs to ensure adequate fire safety in the common areas of the building.

In some instances the leaseholders (or the majority of leaseholders) have created a Right to Manage company (RTM) to take over the management of the common parts of a building containing flats. In these cases the RTM would be the body responsible for applying for a HMO licence.

Unless exempted by law, you'll need a licence to operate an HMO in Royal Greenwich.

Apply for a HMO licence

Training and accreditation for HMO landlords

Many professional landlord organisations and accreditation bodies provide training for landlords. Landlords who are members of these bodies enjoy a reduction in their HMO licence fee.

Ways the Council can help

Properties under the Royal Greenwich Landlord Scheme and some HMOs may be eligible for private landlord home improvement grants.

You can also get advice on energy efficiency from the Council.

Advice to tenants

Landlords and managing agents generally try their best to ensure the properties they run are well-managed and kept in safe and good repair.

However, if you are a tenant and have concerns about your property, the Council offers a range of services and advice aimed at supporting your rights including facing eviction, claiming housing benefits, security of tenure and tackling disrepair.

In a few circumstances there may be an option for a tenant to apply for a rent repayment order or RRO.  An RRO is a way to require a landlord to repay rent, housing benefit or housing costs in relation to a tenancy or licence where an offence has been committed. Sometimes it is not necessary for a conviction to grant an RRO, provided a tribunal is satisfied that an offence has been committed by the landlord.

There are a range of offences which may lead to the granting of an RRO by the First Tier Tribunal:

  • Using threatening behaviour or violence to secure entry into premises
  • Illegal eviction or harassment
  • Failure to comply with improvement notices
  • Failure to comply with a prohibition order
  • Breach of a banning order
  • Having control of, or managing, an unlicensed property
  • Having control of, or managing, an unlicensed house in multiple occupation

A person seeking an RRO must do so through the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) and not the Council using Form RR01. A fee will apply for the application and further fees may be necessary if there is a tribunal hearing.

An occupier can apply for an RRO to recover rent they have paid to the landlord if the offence relates to housing that they were occupying under a letting agreement at the time of the offence, and the offence was committed in the period of 12 months ending with the day on which the application was made to the First Tier Tribunal.

Occupiers can apply to recover any period of rent during their occupancy, up to the maximum of 12 months, so long as they apply within the limit of 12 months from the date of the offence. The Council can help an occupier to apply for an RRO by providing advice on the process, gathering supporting information or sign-posting them to agencies who may be able to assist.

Further guidance and advice on tenancy relations matters is available from Greenwich Housing Rights or by emailing general@grhr.co.uk.

In a similar way, the Council can apply for an RRO to recover housing benefit or housing costs element of universal credit paid (to any person) by first serving a notice of intended proceeding on the landlord/agent. It must also consider applying for a rent repayment order if the landlord has been convicted of an offence in some circumstances.

Further guidance about RRO is available by emailing the Residential Team of Environmental Health services at residentialservices@royalgreenwich.gov.uk or by telephone on 020 8921 8157.