What requirements make a property and HMO?

by | Nov 6, 2022

Introduction

A HMO is defined as a Home of Multiple Occupancy when there are multiple tenants sharing the same house who aren’t in the same household or related to each other but they share common areas of a house such as a living room, kitchen or bathroom.

How are HMOs regulated by Section 257 of the Housing Act 2004?

The housing act of 2004 has a part of legislation in it called section 257 which describes the relevant criteria by which a HMO is valid. This legislation goes over the building regulations, safety requirements and licences needed in order to run a HMO effectively.

What does a bedsit administration mean?

A bedsit refers to the individual room within a HMO whereas the HMO refers to the whole house. As a result, the term bedsit administration is the process of managing rooms and making sure the small details of a room are taken care of.

This job can be taken care of by the landlord themself or someone like a property manager who will make sure the things like the locks on the doors work and the facilities in each room is in good working order. 

This process is common in a HMO because there are multiple tenants to manage so employing someone to directly take care of these problems which may go wrong in the property is vital to maintain the welfare of tenants.

What does a shared house mean in property?

Shared houses in the UK are seen as properties that have more than one person living in them. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a HMO therefore, it can be any house with multiple tenants living inside.

A cross section of a house following HMO requirements

From a landlord living in a property with lodgers in a lodging agreement to a shared house in a HMO, they are all classed as a shared house. As long as they all live under the same roof. This means a development like a build-to-rent development which must have at least 50 self-contained units will not fall under the category of a shared house as all the tenants in a property like this aren’t sharing amenities.

HMO requirements

HMO requirements are what makes them different from a general single-let property. The addition of multiple people who aren’t in the same household sharing the same room has compelled the government to produce more legislation to protect tenants and improve the quality of living for people across the UK.

HMO Minimum Room Sizes

There are minimum room sizes based on the type of HMO licence you may have.

If someone moves into the house on a permanent basis, the landlord is required to provide a check and make sure that everyone who is living in the property has a sufficient room size for their age.

These regulations must be followed for all HMOs where the failure to do so could result in court action or a fine. As you can tell, because of how strict the regulations are, it is easy to see why planning permission is required for some HMO extensions. The council first has to approve the new plans to comply with HMO regulations which are suitable for housing a tenant legally.

Space requirements for living and dining spaces

Depending on whether the room is designed for one or two people, there are different requirements for the room sizes of a house. 

These requirements also only apply to HMOs that are three or more storeys high. As an example, if someone is living in a HMO with kitchen facilities provided in the same room with two people, this room is required to be more than double the size of a room that is suited for just one person without a kitchen in the bedsit as you can see below.

Number of occupiers Where kitchen facilities are
provided in a seperate room
Where kitchen facilities are
provided in the same room
One 8.5 sq. m 13 sq. m
Two 13 sq. m 18 sq. m

Kitchen Facility requirements in a HMO

Kitchens are one of the main shared features of a HMO. As a result, there is a need to make sure that the bigger the house and the more people living in it, the bigger the kitchen also gets in size. The below table demonstrates this change in room size as the number of people living in the HMO increases.

Number of people sharing HMO Minimum room size (square metres)
Up to 3 5.5 sq. m
4 or 5 7.5 sq. m
6 or 7 9.5 sq. m
8 to 10 11.5 sq. m

 

Fire Safety

Under the Regulatory Reform Order of 2055, HMOs are required to have a suitable fire risk assessment conducted on the property which is executed by a qualified fire risk assessor in order for a HMO to be licenced.

This fire risk assessment is likely to identify:

  • Identify any fire hazards
  • Reduce fire risks of any hazards within reason
  • Implement relevant fire management in the case there was a fire on the premises

Typically, the things that will be implemented in a fire risk assessment include fire doors, protected routes, Illuminous strips, seals that stop smoke and recommended fire-resistant materials for curtains and furniture for example.

The most important, and well-known to be needed in a HMO, is the fire alarm systems that the government has made mandatory. Alarms should be placed along recognizable exit routes within the premises and be able to be heard at a sound of at least 75 decibels.

Additionally, fire-grade D systems should be tested every year.

Heating

In terms of heating appliances in a property, a HMO, like other residential properties, needs an efficient heating system capable of maintaining temperature. This system must be able to maintain 19ºc when the outside temperature is -1ºc to be sufficient in the winter months.

The appliance may come in the form of a central heating system to an electrical appliance. If a landlord chooses to use a central heating system it is important they make sure the heating equipment has a valid gas certificate at all times. They should also be securely fixed within a suitable position in a room.

Alongside every room where there is an unconventional heating system in the property such as a pellet boiler, biomass boiler or a coal or wood fire, there also has to be a carbon monoxide alarm installed.

How to convert a property into a HMO in 2022

Whenever you have a HMO, complying with regulations is vital. So, as you take on a house with the intention to turn it into a HMO it is important you follow regulations. The most recent piece of legislation is The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (2018).

Does your property need converting to a HMO?

New regulations include more types of housing within the HMO category. For example, if a property meets a standard test, converted building test or a self-contained flat test, these types of buildings all now need a HMO licence. 

Standard test

This is the test most HMOs pass in order for them to have to get a HMO licence. This test checks if the house is occupied by more than one household and if they share any basic amenities. The people in the residence must use this residence as the main place where they live.

Converted building test

Converted building tests check if a building, after its conversion, has been converted into self-contained flats but also contains living accommodation that is shared outside of the self-contained flat.

What this means is if there are two flats that each have their own living facilities but the residents of both flats share a toilet, for example, this must be classed as HMO.

Self-contained flat test

This test is the same as the standard test, seeing if there are at least two people living on the premises who aren’t members of the same household or if there are more than 5 people living in the building. The difference is instead testing bedsits, the test is made for testing self-contained rooms.

        A bedroom in a HMO property following requirements

        Do you need to convert rooms in HMOs?

        If you realise you have a property you are perhaps sub-letting or renting out without registering your building as a HMO, the first thing you should do as a landlord is declaring your building to the local authority with what test you think it passes.

        This may also be done first by the local council. They may visit your property and determine if the property is passing one of the above tests. Either way, the property will be given a notice that it is now declared a HMO and this will come into effect within 28 days.

        If you don’t think you can get your property approved as a HMO in time, you may have to apply for a temporary exemption which will give you a period of time to apply for the relevant licensing and make changes to the property to comply with regulations.

        How to make sure you comply with HMO building regulations

        Whenever you make changes to a property it is important to know what to do when you are undergoing this renovation. There are safety regulations such as gas safety and spatial requirements for the rooms of the building. When conducting these regulations, how can you make sure that renovations are done smoothly?

        HMO renovation tips

        The below points may be followed when adding renovations to the property to make sure building works go smoothly.

        Keep to a schedule

        If you are dealing with professional contractors they may be able to guide you through this process. Giving accurate information on how long any renovations are likely to take. Make sure you ask them to report back to you every few days or every week as things progress to make sure the schedule is being followed too.

        This way you can reduce the amount of time the property is being worked on and make sure tenants are able to move into the property as soon as possible, allowing you to start collecting rent.

        Plan out the budget beforehand

        One of the biggest reasons for the renovations of a HMO not going to plan is because a landlord goes over budget. Before a contractor is even hired. You should gather an idea of the cost of the works in terms of the cost of labour, the cost of furniture, the cost of raw materials and the cost of any fees and licences you have to pay in order for the HMO to start complying with building regulations. 

        Do HMO landlords have any different responsibilities?

        As a HMO landlord, there is a responsibility to know the tenants in your property as the age of a tenant can impact the size of the room you’ll be required to provide for them. Another big responsibility is understanding the borough or council rules that your HMO is in.

        The type of regulation a landlord has to follow differs in spending on the borough, in particular for things like waste disposal and the requirements for HMO licensing.

        To conclude

        The regulations around HMOs are complex and intricate, especially after a HMO exceeds the 5-room threshold where additional safety measures and additional rooms must be added to the property in order to meet regulations. 

        The standards that make a HMO building compliant with legislation change as you add rooms to the property so you have to know the law in detail. For example, adding a bedroom to a HMO so it goes from a 5 to 6 bed won’t change the safety regulations but it will change the requirements for the kitchen. In this way, you can see how a small increase in bedrooms impacts different parts of a property.