Managing Multi Room Tenancies In A House In Multiple Occupation

Some useful simple advice for investors and landlords who are planning to let or are already managing multi room tenancies in a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

In England and Wales a property that is 3 or more storey’s (includes shops, a basement or loft conversion) occupied by 5 or more people (all ages) that form 2 or more households must be licensed by law. The rules over what you must do for a licensed HMO are set by a Housing Officer from your local council so this isn’t too much of a challenge.

A property is deemed as being used as an HMO when it is occupied by more than 2 people (any age) forming more than 1 households. This includes bungalows and 2 storey houses. Rules still apply to landlords and investors managing small multi let HMO’s. Just because they don’t require licensing doesn’t mean you have nothing to do.

Unless you are a fire officer or have experience preparing properties for HMO licensing I advise you either contract the service of an independent fire risk assessor or contact a Housing Officer at your local council. Both will be able to provide you with information over what you must do to ensure your tenants are safe.

A fire risk assessment will look at fire alarm, fire containment and easy keyless clear passage escape. In most smaller HMO’s an interlinked mains powered fire detector system will be sufficient for notifying tenants there is a fire. Fire doors with intumescant (non-swelling) smoke seals and mechanical closers will be required for all bedroom and kitchen doors to contain a fire. All bedroom and external door locks must be keyless exit type.

Control of all common areas of a multi room HMO is the landlords responsibility not the tenants. This includes the hall, stairs, landing, kitchen, bath/shower rooms and the garden.

It is the landlords duty to ensure there are clear rules relating to the tenants use of the common areas. A landlord must check the property frequent to ensure these rules are not being ignored. I recommend including these rules in the tenancy agreement and having a notice in the kitchen as a reminder.

It is also the landlords responsibility to keep the common areas clean and free of food hazards. Again rules should be added in the tenancy agreement. I recommend a landlord or one of his/her contractors which (maybe a regular cleaner) visits at least once each month and carries out cleaning to all common areas and surfaces.

Managing a small or large HMO is far more complex than standard letting of a house or apartment and should not be entered into without first taking professional advice. You should also check if your local council is operating an Additional Licensing Scheme.

I urge landlords and investors to use an ARLA Licensed letting agent (Association of Residential Lettings Agents). It is a requirement for an ARLA Licensed agent to be a member of the Property Ombudsman.ARLA licensed agents have undergone comprehensive training and are industry professionals. is the only membership body that requires a comprehensive audit of its members accounts and financial procedures. If you are considering using an agent that isn’t ARLA Licensed ask yourself a question – would you think would you buy a holiday from a travel agent who is not a member of ABTA or IATA?