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HMO Reform: A new chapter in the storey

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate
  • Real estate sector


From 1 October 2018, the scope of mandatory licensing for houses in multiple occupation (“HMOs”) under the Housing Act 2004 in England will be extended to include one and two storey buildings. The Act previously only applied to buildings of three storeys or more.

To constitute a HMO, the house/flat must be occupied by at least five people who are not from the same household (which is often taken to mean “a family”), but share facilities such as the bathroom and kitchen.

The extension of licensing is intended to combat overcrowding and to reduce risk to the health and safety of occupiers. The licensing provisions impose additional mandatory conditions on the size of rooms used for sleeping and provision for refuse disposal in order to improve management standards of HMOs.

Houses or flats with individual rooms occupied by students with shared facilities which fall within the category set out above will be captured by the HMO regime. However, educational establishments can obtain an exemption where the buildings are managed and controlled by educational establishments and they have signed up to an Approved Code of Practice.

A building will not be a HMO for establishments in England where:

  • it is occupied wholly or mainly by students on full-time courses of further or higher education at a specified educational establishment that manages the building; 
  • the educational establishment is specifically listed in the Multiple Occupation (Specified Educational Establishments) (England) Regulations 2016; and
  • the educational establishment is subject to an approved code of practice being either the ANUK/UNIPOL Code of Standards for Larger Developments for Student Accommodation Managed and Controlled by Educational Establishments published on 28 August 2008 or the Universities UK/Guild HE Code of Practice for the Management of Student Housing dated  17 August 2010.

Institutions should check they are able to rely on the exemption as, otherwise, a larger number of properties and accommodation will now be subject to the HMO regime than has previously been the case.