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Mandatory House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing

Article 4 Directions

The council has confirmed an Article 4 direction to remove permitted development right for changes of use from shops (A1 use class), financial and professional services (A2 use class), betting offices or pay day loan shops (including buildings where these uses are combined with residential) to a residential dwelling (C3 use class).

This was approved by the Mayor in Cabinet on 29 January 2020 and came into force on 1 January 2021. For more information visit the Article 4 page.

Mandatory House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licensing

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

It may sometimes be referred to as a ‘house share’

A 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.

There are two current HMO licensing schemes in the borough which are; Mandatory and Additional Licensing. Tower Hamlets also has a Selective Licensing Scheme.

Mandatory Licence HMOs?

It has been a legal requirement to licence properties that are defined as Mandatory HMOs since 2006. You must have a licence if you’re renting out an HMO that falls under the Mandatory Licensing prescribed definition.

This definition changed in October 2018, in brief the following properties will need to be licensed under the mandatory scheme;

  • all HMOs with five or more occupiers living in two or more households who share some amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom regardless of the number of storeys
  • self-contained flats where there are up to two flats in the block and one or both of the flats are occupied by five or more persons in two 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.

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 five persons living in two or more households, each flat will require a separate HMO licence.

Your can read more about mandatory licenses and the recent changes to the definition that came into force on 1 October 2018.

Applying for a Mandatory Licence

The application form for the Mandatory Licence can be found online. Please read the guidance notes to ensure that you make your application successfully.


  • Gas Safety Certificate or Commissioning form.
  • Electrical Safety Certificate or Commissioning form.
  • Floor Plans.
  • Fire detection and warning system commissioning or testing certificate.

You will also need the contact details, including full name, telephone number, postal and email address of the following people/organisations: (The definitions can be found in the glossary).

  • Proposed Licence Holder (if it is a company, they must be registered on Companies House).
  • Freeholder
  • Lease Holder/s
  • Managers
  • Rent/Collector Receivers
  • Mortgage Companies
  • Person Responsible for Repairs

Fit and proper person test

In deciding whether to grant a licence, the council must be satisfied that the proposed licence holder 'is a fit and proper person to be the licence holder…’ and that ‘the proposed manager of the house is a fit and proper person to be the manager of the house…’

The licence may be revoked where the council no longer considers that the licence holder is a fit and proper person to be the licence holder and where the council no longer considers that the management of the house is being carried on by persons who are not in each case fit and proper persons to be involved in its management.

This requirement is to ensure that those responsible for operating the licence and managing the property are of sufficient integrity and good character to be involved in the management of the particular residential property and as such they do not pose a risk to the welfare or safety of persons occupying the property.

Apply for a Mandatory Licence



There are exemptions to the requirement to be licensed and these are contained in schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 In Brief these include properties which are;

  • controlled or managed by a Local Housing Authority
  • controlled or managed by registered social landlords and housing providers
  • controlled and managed by police
  • controlled and managed by fire brigade
  • controlled and managed by Health Service Body
  • regulated by other enactments
  • occupied by religious communities (except section 257 HMOs)
  • occupied by two persons who form two households.

Please check if the property is exempted before making an application. See lists of exemptions.

In some circumstances a temporary exemption from licensing can be granted. Temporary exemptions are only granted for three months.

The landlord must tell the council if the property no longer requires a license. For example:

  • if they are selling it into owner-occupation
  • if tenants have given notice (of their own accord) to vacate the property.

If the property is currently vacant or owner-occupied, and the landlord intends to keep it that way, then a temporary exemption is not required.

Please read our guidance to see if you are able to make an application for a temporary exemption.

Apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice


Licence conditions

Once the licence is issued it becomes an offence if the conditions are breached.

There are three ways that conditions are added to the licence;

  1. The legislation includes a set of mandatory conditions which the Council must attach to each licence issued.
  2. Councils can adopt a set of conditions to attach to every licence to address specific issues within their areas.
  3. Officers can attach conditions to individual licences if there are issues specific to the property.

Failure to meet licence conditions can result in a criminal conviction and an unlimited fine or be issued with a financial penalty of up to £30,000 for each condition breached.

Please note the conditions for each scheme is different and you will need to refer to the standard conditions for the Selective and the Mandatory licensing schemes.

However you must ensure you are aware of the conditions specific to your licence because there may be others attached by the officer.

The licence will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO. It will also include the following conditions, which will 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.

Amenities and room sizes

Tower Hamlets has adopted a set of amenity and room size standards at its October 2018 Cabinet meeting.

Amenities and room sizes
Number of occupiersMinimum bedroom size for sleeping Kitchen facilities in a separate room m²Minimum bedroom size for sleeping Kitchen facilities within the room m²







Any rooms below the Tower Hamlets minimum space standard above will not normally be considered suitable for sleeping accommodation although discretion may be granted if there is sufficient other communal space available to the occupiers.

No rooms below 6.5m2 will be considered as suitable for sleeping rooms under any circumstances.

The amenity standard assures that residents have access to sufficient number of cookeing and bathing facilties etc. See the standards required.

Length of the licence term

The licence is valid for three 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. The council issue a licence for a shorter term under some circumstances.

Fees and refunds

View the fees and charges

Fees can be paid online using a UK bank registered card. There is also the facility to make bulk payments for landlords with many properties.

Overseas landlords

It is unlikely that we would issue a licence to somebody living outside the UK. The council will consider such a request if you can demonstrate that your duties as a Licence holder are adequately covered by a responsible person and that they have the authority and funds to carry out urgent repairs if needed.

Penalties for unlicensed properties

The council has an enforcement policy which details how we deal with breaches of the legislation. The service also has a policy which details specifically with how we deal with offences related to property licensing.

Operating an unlicensed property that should be licensed can result in a criminal conviction and an unlimited fine or a Financial Penalty of up to £30,000.

Any convictions can affect the fit and proper person status and could therefore result in limitation in being able to manage a licensable property in future. The landlord can also be subject to;

  • Rent repayment Orders (RROs). 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).
  • Reduced Capability to Evict. 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.

Licensing Register

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

View the Mandatory Licensing public register.

Useful links

Fire, gas and electrical safety

Property licensing conditions

Application form help

Property licensing enforcement


General information