Licensing of House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Do I need an HMO licence?

You will need a valid HMO licence if you rent out a house in multiple occupation which is:

  • occupied by five or more people
  • occupied by people living in two or more separate households and lack or share bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities
  • a building, a converted flat or a purpose built flat with up to two flats in the block and any of which are occupied as a HMO

You must apply for the licence before the property is occupied by five or more people. The licence is usually issued for five years. In exceptional circumstances, the licence may by issued for a shorter period.

All HMOs (licensable and those that do not need a licence), and self contained flats must meet the Amenity Standards (PDF, 356KB) and are subject to HMO safety inspections.

You will not need a licence if the property is:

  • managed by a registered social landlord
  • managed by a health service body
  • occupied by the owner and their family with no more than two lodgers
  • a property occupied by two people who are not of the same household

If you are operating an unlicensed HMO, you could face an unlimited fine or we may issue a financial penalty of up to £30,000. In addition, you may be ordered to repay up to 12 months rent and any Housing Benefit paid during that period.

Do I have the right planning permission?

You will need to check that you have the correct planning permission for the property to be used as an HMO. From 20 September 2017, any property being converted to a HMO must comply with the Article 4 Direction: relating to House in Multiple Occupation.

Register of HMO licences

You can search the public register of HMO licences online.

Temporary Exemption Notice

If you do not intend to run the property as a licensable HMO and are taking action to reduce the number of people in occupation you can apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice.

This will allow you up to three months to take appropriate action to reduce the number of occupants or to return the property to single occupation. If at the end of the Temporary Exemption Notice period the property is still licensable, you will need to apply for a licence immediately to avoid enforcement action for running an unlicensed HMO.

Make or renew a licence application

You can make online applications to applychange or renew an HMO licence.

Applications must include:

  • an application form, signed and dated, together with the correct fee for an HMO licence
  • a plan of the property (showing room numbers, room dimensions measurements in metric, automatic fire detection /fire alarms and fire doors)
  • a fire risk assessment
  • emergency lighting (if present)
  • a landlord's gas safety certificate - issued within the last 12 months
  • an electrical installation certificate - issued within the last 5 years
  • an automatic fire detection certificate (for three or more storey HMO and two storey or less HMO)
  • a portable Electric Appliance Test certificate
  • proof of applicant’s address eg. Utility bill, bank statement, driving license, passport
  • a Tenancy agreement
  • any relevant Building Control Document
  • proof of planning permission – where necessary

Three or more storeys HMO – “Grade A” Automated Fire Detection System (with control panel)

Provide a fire inspection certificate, dated within the previous 6 months.  Automatic fire detection systems should be inspected and serviced at least every 6 months in line with BS 5839-6. Inspection and servicing of a Grade A System must be carried out by a competent person, which will normally be a specialist fire alarm servicing engineer and should be third party certified, for example UKAS – accredited certification body.

Two storey or less HMO – “Grade D” Alarm systems

On HMO licence applications and renewals you will be asked to provide a fire inspection certificate issued by a competent person who will normally be a specialist fire alarm servicing engineer. This is to demonstrate that at the time of issuing the licence, the fire detection system is working correctly. For the duration of the licence, you must provide evidence that the alarms have been checked yearly.

To grant a licence we must be satisfied that:

  • the property is suitable for occupation by the number of people on the application
  • the property has adequate facilities for the number of people on application
  • the property management is satisfactory
  • the proposed licence holder should be a fit and proper person. To determine this we will look at whether the applicant has:
    • any convictions relating to violence, sex offences, fraud or drugs
    • any offences relating to housing legislation
    • any offences relating to discrimination

Licence conditions

All licences have generic licence conditions. In some cases there will be conditions specific to the property, for example, to provide more amenities for the number of occupants and minimum room sizes. You will be given a timescale for the conditions to be met.

Room size standards

The Mandatory Conditions Regulations 2018 amend Schedule 4 of the Act, introducing the mandatory national minimum sleeping room sizes. The minimum size for sleeping accommodation does not apply to charities providing night shelters or temporary accommodation for people suffering or recovering from drug or alcohol abuse or mental disorders.

What is the minimum sleeping room size

The minimum sleeping room floor area sizes to be imposed as conditions of the licences are:

  • 6.51 m2 for one person over 10 years of age
  • 10.22 m2 for two persons over 10 years
  • 4.64 m2 for one child under the age of 10 years

Any room of less than 4.64 m2 may not be used as sleeping accommodation and the landlord will need to notify the local housing authority of any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 m2.

The measurement is one of wall to wall floor area where the ceiling height is greater than 1.5m. No part of a room should be included in the measurement where the ceiling height is less than 1.5m.

The mandatory room size conditions are the statutory minimum and are not intended to be the optimal room size.

Maximum number of people occupying the HMO

The licence will state the maximum number of people that can occupy the whole property and the maximum number of occupants per room.

It is an offence if the landlord or person in control of the property:

  • fails to apply for a licence for a licensable HMO
  • allows a property to be occupied by more people than is permitted under the licence
  • breaches any conditions attached to the licence

Service standards

We will aim to determine your application within 90 days. Were we experience a large number of applications, there may be some delay in the time taken to determine applications.

If you have not heard from us within our service standards, please contact us.


Occasionally we may refuse a licence but this would be in exceptional circumstances and we will explain the reasons for the refusal. If you disagree with the decision, please contact us in the first instance.

You may appeal to a residential property tribunal regarding conditions attached to a licence or any decision to vary or to revoke a licence that has been granted. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.



Landlord annual fire alarm check for Grade D (2-storey or less HMO)


New HMO application

Make a change a HMO licence

Renew a HMO licence

Useful links

Residential Property Tribunal

Stevenage Borough Council is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Related pages

Homes in multiple occupation - safety inspections


Environmental Health & Licensing
Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House
01438 242908/242916