Are There Any Exemptions?

National HMO Network > What Is An HMO? > Are There Any Exemptions?

definition-exemptionsCertain types of properties are not classed as HMOs for the purpose of the Housing Act 2004 (other than for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System) and, as a result, are not subject to licencing.

A full list of exemptions is detailed in Schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 which was amended by Section 185 of the Localism Act 2011 to include co-operatives 

These includes:

  • Two person flat share – a property, or part of a property, lived in by no more than two “households” each of which consists of just one person. A property where the landlord and their household lives with up to two tenants
  • A property where the landlord and their household lives with up to two tenants
  • Buildings occupied entirely by freeholders or long leaseholders
  • Buildings owned or managed by a public body (such as the NHS or police), a local housing authority or a registered social landlord
  • A building where the residential accommodation is ancillary to the main use of the building, for example, religious buildings, conference centres etc. Buildings which are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in regulations), such as care homes, bail hostels etc. Domestic refuges are not exempt.
  • Buildings which are already regulated (and where the description of the building is specified in regulations), such as care homes, bail hostels etc. Domestic refuges are not exempt.
  • Certain buildings that are controlled or managed by a co-operative society

Fire Safety Order

Some HMOs will need to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This is often referred to as the RRO or just the Fire Safety Order.

These will typically be houses let as bedsits, hostels and blocks of flats.

Fire Safety Risk Assessment for sleeping accommodation.

Management of HMOs

There are 2 sets of management relations:

  1. most HMOs – Statutory Instruments no. 372, 2006
  2. section 257 HMOs (blocks of self-contained flats that fall within the HMO definition) – Statutory Instruments no.1903, 2007.

The Management Regulations impose duties on both the managers and the tenants of an HMO. The duties imposed are to ensure the good order, repair and, as appropriate, cleanliness of the following:

  • means of water supply and drainage
  • parts of the house in common use
  • installations in common use
  • living accommodation
  • windows and ventilation
  • means of escape from fire, including any fire apparatus.

The manager is also given certain responsibilities in respect of the disposal of refuse and litter, and the taking of reasonable precautions to protect tenants and lodgers from dangers resulting from structural conditions in the premises.

Management regulations also impose duties in the tenants of houses. We have produced an open letter to tenants detailing their responsibilities that apply to shared houses of 3 or more persons.

Landlords can print this letter off and give to tenants as part of their responsibilities under licensing conditions.

Open letter to tenants of shared houses

Other controls

There are other controls on private housing affecting HMOs but these also apply to all types of properties.


Purpose built blocks of flats are not HMOs. However, if any of the individual flats are shared by more than 2 tenants in two are more households they will individually be HMOs.
A block of shared flats can have many HMOs within it.

Houses which are converted entirely into self-contained flats will only be HMOs if the conversion did not meet the standard of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let out on short term tenancies.

Controls on private housing

Housing controls apply to all types of properties, they include:

  • Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
  • Furniture and furnishings
  • Building Regulation Approval
  • Legionnaires’ Disease
  • Energy Performance Certificates

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have additional controls.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

All houses should be free from Serious Health and Safety Hazards – known as Category 1 Hazards.

Within 5 years of a licence application, all HMOs have to be assessed to ensure there are no category 1 hazards.

Our short guide to the hazards and background of the Safety Ratings (HHSRS).

Furniture and furnishings

There are standards for furniture and furnishings to ensure fire safety in all private rented housing.

In HMOs the manager is required to ensure that the furniture supplied is in a clean condition at the start of a person’s occupation.

Building Regulation Approval

Some of the works to HMOs will require building regulation approval including for:

  • change of use for houses occupied by more than 6
  • installation of plumbing and electrical works
  • thermal insulation
  • structural alterations

Meeting building regulation standards does not imply that the house meets HMO standards and will be free from Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) hazards.

Landlords submitting an application for building regulations should include HMO in the title of the application. We may then advise you as to any requirements we might have.

Legionnaires’ Disease

All landlords providing rented accommodation will have responsibilities to ensure that the risk regarding legionella are properly controlled.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforce landlord obligations for Legionnaire’s Disease.