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.