Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

What are houses in multiple occupations (HMO)

A house or a flat which is occupied by three of more unrelated persons, who do not form a single household – this definition is supported by Sections 254, 257 and 258 of the Housing Act 2004.

HMO will also share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.

An HMO could be a:

  • house split into separate bedsits
  • shared house or flat, where the sharers are not members of the same family
  • hostel
  • bed-and-breakfast hotel that is not just for holidays
  • shared accommodation for students – although many halls of residence and other types of student accommodation owned by educational establishments are not classed as HMOs.

Mandatory HMO licensing criteria

You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of the following apply.

Extended Mandatory HMO licensing

The government has now decided to extend the scope of mandatory licensing to bring smaller HMOs within the scheme. From the 1st of October 2018, Mandatory HMO licensing will include:

  • all HMOs with 5 or more occupiers living in 2 or more households regardless of the number of storeys. Effectively this means the storey requirement will be removed from the current definition

  • self-contained flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by 5 or more persons in 2 or more separate households. This will apply regardless of whether the block is above or below commercial premises.

This will bring certain flats above shops on high streets within mandatory licensing as well as small blocks of flats which are not connected to commercial premises.

As is the case now, it is the individual HMO that is required to be licensed and not the building within which the HMO is situated. This means that where a building has two flats and each is occupied by 5 persons living in 2 or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

Will also include occupiers share basic amenities such as washing and cooking facilities.

Read about the HMO residential property licensing guidance.

FAQs for new mandatory HMOs

Rent repayment order

If you live in a HMO that should be licensed but isn't, your landlord can be fined and ordered to repay up to 12 months' rent (or housing benefit to the council).

Eviction and HMO

Many people living in HMOs have an assured shorthold tenancy. If you're an assured shorthold tenant and the HMO should be licensed but isn't, any section 21 notice (two months' notice to leave) your landlord gives you is not valid.

Licence conditions 

Certain mandatory conditions apply to all licenses. The licence will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO. It will also include the following conditions, which apply to every licence:

  • a valid current gas safety certificate, which is renewed annually, must be provided
  • proof that all the electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • proof that the fire detection and smoke alarm system is installed and functioning correctly
  • each occupier must have a written statement of the terms on which they occupy the property, i.e. a tenancy agreement
  • overall management and conditions of the property.

Other discretionary conditions will also be applied.

How long will a licence be valid?

The licence is valid for 3 years in Tower Hamlets assuming no significant changes to the property or the ownership in that time. If changes do occur within the licence period, the licence holder must inform the council.


If your licence is due for renewal, and your property is still a HMO, you must reapply online. The re-licence fee is £525 and plus  £35 per habitable room.

£525 per application plus £35 per habitable room including any separate living room space for 3 years. View our fees or check to see if your property is exempted.

Health & Housing costing for 2018-2019
TypeFees and costing 
HMO licensing - Basic fee per property £525
HMO licensing - Additional fee per habitable room £35
HMO licensing - Re-licensing (renewal) for mandatory HMO £525
HMO licensing - Amend details on existing licence £152
HMO licensing - Re-Licence (renewal) fee / habitable room £35
Selective Licensing Licence - online application £520
Selective Licensing Licence - partial online application  £580
Selective Licensing Licence - partial postal application £660
Housing Act 2004 Part 1 Enforcement Notice served £497.60

The cost of licensing an HMO is based on its size and the work required to process the application. A basic licence fee of £525 and £35 per habitable room let or available for letting is payable in respect of all licensable HMOs. A “habitable room” includes all bedrooms and living rooms. (In effect, all rooms other than bathrooms, W.Cs, kitchens or rooms too small to be considered for sleeping purposes).

The correct fee must accompany the application.

Please note that there is no provision for return of fee should the licence is refused or revoked. 

How to apply 

Apply for a selective or mandatory Landlord Licence or temporary exemption

Need help completing the application? Read the guidance.

Please note: the application form is not optimised for mobile devices or tablets.

For how we use your data, read the Environmental Health and trading standards privacy notice.

Public register

The Housing Act 2004 requires the council to hold a public register of licensed HMOs in the borough.

For further information on HMO licensing or to apply for a licence you can contact the Health and Housing Team at

The amenity standards

The amenity standards will also apply to the existing Mandatory licensed Houses in Multi-occupied and Selective Licensing Scheme from the 1st January 2019 and to the Additional Licensing Scheme from 1st April 2019.

Useful guidance/documents