Houses in multiple occupation (HMO’s)

If the house or flat you share with other tenants is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) your landlord probably has extra legal responsibilities.

Do I live in an HMO?

Some houses or flats that are occupied by more than one household are classed as houses in multiple occupation (or HMO). Landlords of this type of property have extra legal responsibilities.

You may be living in an HMO if you live in a house or flat that is:

  • occupied by at least 3 tenants, forming more than one household, and
  • you share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants.

This could include:

  • a house split into separate bedsits
  • a house or flat- share, where people have separate tenancy agreements
  • a hostel
  • a bed-and-breakfast hotel that is not just for holidays
  • students living in shared accommodation (although many halls of residence and other types of student accommodation that are owned by educational establishments are not classed as HMOs).

It is not always easy to work out whether you live in an HMO or not. If you’re not sure, contact an advice centre in your area.

What responsibilities does the landlord of an HMO have?

The landlord’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that:

These rules exist to ensure that people living in HMOs have access to decent facilities, and to reduce the risk of fire. If you are experiencing problems contact the environmental health department of your local council and they may assess your property under The Housing Health Safety Rating System. This aims to ensure that your home doesn’t have any serious hazards, and allows a council to take action against landlords whose properties are dangerous.

Does my landlord need a licence?

There are three types of licensing scheme for HMOs in Wales. Licensing schemes are designed to improve the standards of HMOs by placing certain obligations on landlords and agents:

Rent Smart Wales

Any private landlord of a property (including an HMO) must be registered with the Rent Smart Wales scheme.

In addition, whoever does the letting and management of the property must be licensed under the Rent Smart Wales scheme. This might be the landlord, the agent or both (if there is a split of responsibilities for letting and management). To obtain a licence the landlord or agent will need to pay a fee, declare that they are a ‘fit and proper’ person, and attend training about their rights and responsibilities.

A landlord can face penalties, including prosecution, if they are not registered and/or licensed with the scheme.

Many people living in HMOs have an assured shorthold tenancy. If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord or agent has not registered with the scheme, any section 21 notice (two months’ notice) your landlord gives you is not valid.

For more information on the Rent Smart Wales scheme see our page on Landlord registration and licensing.

Mandatory licensing

In addition to complying with the Rent Smart Wales scheme, your landlord must apply to their local council for a licence to rent out your property as an HMO if:

  • it is at least three storeys high;
  • contains five or more people;
  • has 2 or more households living in it;
  • tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.

The council will decide if a property meets an acceptable standard and is well managed before registering the property as an HMO.  Your landlord will need a separate licence for each HMO it owns.

A landlord can be prosecuted and fined for renting out an unlicensed HMO.

If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and the HMO should be licensed but isn’t, any section 21 notice (two months’ notice) your landlord gives you is not valid.

Selective licensing

Local councils can also choose to insist that other smaller HMOs in specific areas be licensed.

Check with your local council to find out what the requirements are in your area and if your landlord has registered your home as an HMO.

What can I do if my landlord doesn’t comply?

If you live in an HMO and you think your landlord is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities, contact Rent Smart Wales or your local council. The environmental health department at the council are normally responsible for dealing with complaints about HMOs.

The council can prosecute landlords of HMOs (or any manager they have employed) if they break the law. In extreme cases, the council can take over the management of the property.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

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We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: July 26, 2017

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.