Which HMOs need a licence?

National HMO Network > HMO Licensing > Which HMOs need a licence?

Mandatory HMO licensing applies to buildings of three or more storeys and occupied by five or more tenants in two or more households.

You can read the definition of “household” on our What is an HMO? page.

What constitutes a storey?

It is important to remember that when counting the number of storeys in a building you should not just count the number of storeys with living accommodation. You should also include:

  • Basements and attics if they are occupied or if they have been converted for occupation by residents or if they are used in connection with the occupation of the HMO by residents eg a basement with just a residents’ laundry room and no other living accommodation would count as a storey
  • Any storeys occupied by a resident landlord or the landlord’s family
  • All the storeys in residential accommodation, even if they are self-contained
  • Any business premises or storage space on the ground floor or any upper floor. You do not need to count basements used for business or storage unless the basement is the only, or principal, entrance to the HMO from the street.

Mezzanine floors may be counted as a storey depending on their location and use. Your local council will advise you on this.

Cotswold DC was the first council to test the interpretation of what constitutes a storey in court. On Friday 27th June 2008 Gloucester Crown Court dismissed an appeal against the prosecution of a landlord for running an unlicensed HMO.

The HMO was a three storey property, with a self-contained flat on the ground floor. The first floor and converted attic were occupied by five tenants in more than two households. The case confirms that, under a mandatory licensing scheme, any storeys containing self-contained flats need to be counted when assessing whether an HMO should be licensed.

This case is the first to make case law for HMO licensing; it clarifies the law and means that the flat itself does not have to comprise of three storeys to need a licence, but will need a licence if it is in a building of three or more stories.

Multi-use buildings

Some properties may be used partly as residential use and partly as something else – a conference facility, a workshop or food outlet for example.

If a local council is satisfied that a property is primarily used as the main residence of tenants and the other use is additional to this, they may classify it as an HMO and it may need a licence.

Another example of this would include a house used in the summer for a holiday let, but for the rest of the year the house is let to tenants.

Landlords may appeal against a council’s decision to classify their property as an HMO.