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Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

HMOs law other than HMO Licensing. For information about licensing, applications forms and guidance notes please visit HMO Licensing.

The Housing Act 2004 brought licensing in for certain categories of HMO, which is dealt with in greater detail below. 

What is an HMO and which HMOs require licences

In most cases an HMO is a house or a flat in which two or more households live as their only or main residence and where some of these households share basic facilities, such as a kitchen toilet or bathroom. 

Other types of HMOs include converted buildings that include non self contained flats; buildings that include self contained flats and which meet certain tests and other buildings where basic facilities are missing.
A household could be a single person, or members of the same family living together. If there are three or more people living together in a flat or a building and they are not all in the same household, for example a shared student house, the building or flat may be classified as an HMO.
An HMO is regarded as a persons main or only residence if:
  • They are living in an HMO as a full time student in higher education (except for most halls of residence owned and managed by the universities)
  • The HMO is occupied as a refuge for persons escaping domestic violence
  • The HMO is occupied by Migrant or seasonal workers
  • The HMO is occupied by asylum seekers in accommodation partly or wholly funded by the National Asylum Support Scheme
HMOs must be licensed if they have 3 or more storeys and are occupied by 5 or more persons forming two or more households. In the calculation of storeys commercial use of the ground floor or above will count as a storey so for example, a shop or other commercial premises below a first and second flat will be a three storey HMO. There are also other rules as to what can be a storey. These rules are covered on our HMO Licensing page which also includes including application forms and further details about licensing.

Management of HMOs

There are 2 sets of management relations, the first applying to most HMOs are detailed in Statutory Instruments no 372, 2006 and for those for section 257 HMOs (blocks of self contained flats that fall within the HMO definition) are contained in Statutory Instrument 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.  This is available in the downloadable in the Licensing conditions section above.

Standards of fire protection recommended for non-licensable Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

These standards are our recommended standards for non-licensable HMOs. Please note that we cannot routinely enforce these standards.  However, if a property is inspected that has serious health and safety deficiencies for the hazard of fire, any requirements for works will be to these standards and these are the fire standards required for Snug which promotes the best quality student housing.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

All HMOs 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.

A short guide to the 29 hazards and the background of HHSRS for landlords and tenants.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Some HMOs will need to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, (often referred to as the RRO or just Fire Safety Order).  These will typically be houses let as bedsits, hostels and blocks of flats.

Fire Safety Risk Assessment for Sleeping Accommodation.

Furniture and Furnishings

HMO Management

In HMOs, there are management requirements requiring the manager to ensure that the furniture supplied is in a clean condition at the start of persons occupation – see above.

Furniture Fire Safety Regulations
The Furniture And Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 set standards for the fire resistance of domestic upholstered furniture and furnishings.
The Regulations apply to: -
  • Landlords or agents, when letting a property or replacing furniture, including holiday let
  • Manufacturers and retailers or new or second-hand furniture, including charity shops and mail order firms.
Charities who distribute donated furniture or private individuals selling items through the paper, or letting their homes whilst temporarily absent are likely to be exempt (except where this is via a letting agent).
Any accommodation let since 1st January 1997 must contain only furniture and furnishings that comply.
There are few exemptions that still apply to long-standing tenancies, but the furniture in the majority of current lettings will be covered by the Regulations.
Pre-1950 furniture is exempt, so is the tenant’s own furniture (although a landlord could include a clause in the tenancy agreement prohibiting tenants from bringing in non-complying items of furniture)
The items covered by regulations include:
  • Beds, bedbases, headboards, mattresses, pillows
  • Sofabeds and futons and upholstered garden furniture.
  • Settees, armchairs, dining chairs, upholstered stools.
  • Baby equipment and nursery furniture, including cots and mattresses, playpens, highchairs, prams.
The Regulations require any fillings materials, cover materials, and lining fabrics to meet certain fire resistance standards. They also cover re-upholstery fillings and fabrics, and loose stretch covers.
All new furniture (except mattresses and bedbases) must carry a permanent label describing the fire resistance of all the materials used. Look for labels headed ‘Carelessness Causes Fire’.
Landlords should only buy or supply furniture bearing fire resistance labels. If beds or mattresses are not labelled, check with the manufacturers that they comply. 
The offence under these regulations is to ‘supply’ non-complying furniture, fillings or fabrics in the course of business. The onus is on landlords and retailers to prove they made every effort to ensure the furniture they supplied complies with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
If tenants are concerned about the fire safety of any items of furniture provided with private rented accommodation and would like further advice, they should contact the Council’s Trading Standards Section, who will advise you what items need to comply and where to check for labels.

Trading Standards Section
Sheffield City Council
Environment & Regulatory Services
2-10 Carbrook Hall Road
Sheffield, S9 2DB

Tel: (0114) 273 6286
Fax: (0114) 273 6248
A full copy of the regulations can be downloaded below.

Building Regulation Approval

Some of the works to HMOs will require building regulation approval including change of use for houses occupied by more than 6, installation of plumbing and electrical works, thermal insulation and for 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 to enable the development to be identified so that we may advise you as to any requirements we might have.

More about building regulations

Planning Permission

Planning permission will be required for new HMOs of over 6 persons and for any HMOs in the areas of the city with high concentrations of HMOs including:

  • Walkley
  • Crookes
  • Broomhill
  • Broomhall
  • Hunters Bar
  • Sharrow

These are in an area where we have made an Article 4 Direction.

Further information about Controls Over Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Legionnaires' Disease

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

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforce landlords obligations.

Energy Performance Certificates

Landlords in the social and private rented sectors must give new tenants a copy of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for their home.

It includes a rating for its energy efficiency and environmental impact, together with recommended measures (for the landlord to consider) which would improve its rating.

Prospective tenants are able to make informed choices about the energy costs and environmental impact of properties they are considering renting.

Landlords are encouraged to implement energy efficiency measures to make their properties more attractive to prospective tenants.  Standards in the sector have improved, tenants have warmer more efficient homes, and issues around the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) excess cold hazard, fuel poverty and the wider climate change agenda have been addressed.

Download a Landlord's Guide to energy performance certificates.


We have signed up to the principles of the Enforcement Concordat and have produced an Intervention and Enforcement Policy.

This policy commits all our officers to good enforcement practices and procedures.  It also sets out the decision making process that officers will follow regarding intervention, from an initial request or receipt of information to the conclusion of a matter.

This ensures that intervention and enforcement activity (formal and informal) is:

  • Fair minded

  • Proportionate

  • Consistent

  • Helpful

  • Fair

  • Modified: Mar 21, 2014 12:35:30 PM