Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) can offer good quality affordable accommodation to people who cannot afford to buy their own homes and are not eligible for housing by the Council.

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as:

  • an entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • a house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not completely self contained (ie the flat does not have a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form two or more households
  • a building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies
  • in order to be an HMO the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties used as domestic refuges

HMO licensing 

Licensing is aimed at raising standards to make sure that residents in the rented property sector live in safe and healthy homes. HMOs in particular can be poorly managed and in poor physical condition.

Licensing also ensures that landlords are managing their HMOs to the required standards. Failure to obtain a licence could result in landlords being subject to an unlimited fine.

Under the national mandatory licensing scheme an HMO must be licensed if it is a building consisting of three or more storeys and is occupied by five or more tenants in two or more households.

You may need a licence if you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • do you rent out property?
  • does your property have three or more storeys (including habitable attics or basements)?
  • does your property have five or more unrelated tenants?

A household is defined as:

  • couples married to each other or living together as husband and wife (or equivalent relationship in the case of people of the same sex)
  • relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children (and step-children), grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins (half-relatives will be treated as full relatives. A foster child living with his foster parent is treated as living in the same household as his foster parent)
  • any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in the accommodation provided by the person they are working for


  • three friends sharing together count as three households
  • if a couple are sharing with a third person, that would consist of two households
  • if a family rents a property, that is a single household
  • if that family had a live-in au pair to look after their children, that person would be included in their household

Apply for a licence

You will need an HMO licence if your property is:

  • three storeys or more (including any business premises)
  • occupied by five or more individuals (including children), and
  • comprises two more households, and
  • one or more of the basic amenities are shared

To grant a licence Hackney must be satisfied that:

  • the proposed licence holder, the landlord or managing agent, are 'fit and proper' people
  • properties and tenancies are managed appropriately
  • the accommodation meets all minimum standards such as sufficient number of toilets, kitchens and bathrooms for the number of residents
  • licences may be issued with certain conditions attached


Public register of HMO licences

Landlord accreditation scheme

If you let or manage property in Hackney, give tenants confidence that you are a good landlord or agent by joining the  London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS). It aims to recognise good practice and improve conditions in the private rented sector.

Page updated: 08/01/2018 13:17:59