Apply for a house of multiple occupation licence (HMO)

 

 

Do I need a HMO licence?

A HMO is a property (house or flat) occupied by three or more unrelated people, forming two or more households who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom. Types of HMOs:

  • shared houses and flats rented with joint or single tenancies, for example, shared houses or flats lived in by students or groups of professionals
  • bedsits which may share kitchen and or bathroom 
  • a building which is converted into flats where less than two thirds are owner occupied and the conversion does not meet appropriate building standards. These are often referred to as poorly converted blocks of flats because they do not comply with building standards

Having a tenancy agreement does not mean that the house is a HMO

If your answer to any of the questions below is 'no' you do not need a HMO licence:

  • do you privately rent a property within Guildford Borough Council's boundaries?
  • is the property occupied by five or more unrelated people? Please include children and babies
  • do two or more separate households live in the property?
  • do the occupants of the property share a bathroom, kitchen or a toilet?

Will tacit consent apply?

No. Tacit consent is where the applicant can act as though the licence is granted if they haven't heard from us. This does not apply to HMO licensing. However, you can still operate a HMO whilst we look at your application. We will aim to respond to your application within 10 working days. 

Fees

The fee for this licence is £885

  • discount of £25 if applicant is a member of a recognised landlord organisation
  • discount of £50 if applicant is an accredited Landlord of the Guildford Letting Scheme

Both discounts cannot be applied at the same time.

If you have an existing HMO licence that needs work to be completed to the property at this time, call 01483 505050 and ask to speak to the housing standards team. Or email regulatoryservices@guildford.gov.uk.

If you have a pending HMO application, we will look at how we can deal with this remotely.

Rules for landlords of HMOs

All HMO landlords must:

  • follow our set standards for room sizes, kitchens and bathrooms 
  • follow fire safety guidance  Housing - Fire Safety Guidance 
  • install smoke alarms and fire-fighting equipment
  • install carbon monoxide alarms where there is a solid fuel appliance i.e. a cooker, stove, woodburner, fire. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms booklet for landlords 
  • keep fire escapes in repair and free from obstruction
  • give contact details to the people living in the HMO
  • take steps to make sure people living in the HMO are not hurt by its structural condition
  • make sure there is good drainage from the HMO
  • make sure there is water supply and the supply is not unreasonably interrupted
  • supply us with annual gas safety certificates (if the HMO has gas) when asked
  • carry out safety checks on electrical installations every five years
  • make sure the supply of gas (if any) and electricity is not unreasonably interrupted
  • keep the HMO's shared areas in good condition (including decorative repair)
  • keep each person's separate living area in good condition, including fixtures and fittings
  • maintain shared gardens
  • keep in repair any outbuildings or fences belonging to the HMO
  • provide suitable facilities for getting rid of rubbish

For more information or guidance please visit

 HMO guidance

Rules for people living in an HMO

If you live in an HMO you must:

  • not make it hard or stop your landlord carrying out their duties
  • take care not to damage anything which the landlord has a duty to repair, maintain, keep in good order or supply
  • get rid of rubbish using the landlord's advice
  • follow all reasonable fire safety instructions given by the manager

Fines 

You, or your landlord, can be fined up to £30,000 if you don't follow the rules.

Fire safety in HMOs

Assessing the risks and precautions

We check fire safety conditions using the most up-to-date guidance for HMOs. This includes the Fire Safety Guidance on Fire Safety Provisions published by LACORS and the British Standard:5839 Part 6 (2019).

We may ask you to meet other standards after we have inspected your property.  

The risks tend to vary according to the type of housing. See categories below. Download our Icon for pdf fire safety at-a-glance checklist of requirements [184.67KB]

All mains-wired smoke/heat detectors must have built-in battery back-up.

For the Electrical Safety Regulations 2020, send your electrical safety certificates confirming works have been made safe, as required, to customerservices@guildford.gov.uk.

Shared houses

Shared houses are generally smaller HMOs. They are typically two storey properties. They have a simple layout and design and the tenants are together in a group under one joint tenancy. Living arrangements will be like a single household.  

You need a Grade D LD2 system conforming to BS:5839 Part 6 (2019). This will involve:

  • a smoke alarm on each communal hallway/landing and all communal risk rooms 
  • a heat alarm in the kitchen 
  • the smoke and heat alarms should be mains wired and linked to a sound alarm

Non-shared house accommodation

There is generally a higher fire risk linked with this category than in a shared house. In a non-shared house there are shared facilities, such as a shared kitchen. But all occupants live independently of each another on separate tenancies.

  • you need a Grade LD2/mixed system conforming to BS:5839 Part 6 (2019)
  • you need interlinked mains-wired smoke alarms in the communal hallway
  • you need a heat alarm in the kitchen
  • you will also need smoke detection inside individual bedrooms. Smoke detection inside individual bedrooms can be powered by long-life batteries. It can be interlinked to all other bedroom detectors wirelessly

Battery powered detectors must be:

  • bought from a reputable source
  • installed following manufacturers' recommendations
  • routinely tested
  • tamperproof

Bedsits

Bedsits present the highest fire risk. Bedsits are HMOs where occupiers have cooking facilities inside their bedroom. They may share bathroom facilities.

1-2 Storeys

You will need :

  • Grade D, LD2-mixed system: mains-wired and interlinked smoke detectors on all levels and in communal risk rooms such as lounges/utilities
  • any extra communal kitchens need a mains wired and interlinked heat detector
  • individual bedrooms (with cooking equipment) need a mains-wired standalone smoke detector. They also need a mains-wired, interlinked heat detector

3+ Storeys

You will need: 

  • Grade A, LD2-mixed system: mains-wired and interlinked smoke detectors on all levels and inside communal risk rooms such as lounges/utilities
  • any extra communal kitchens need a mains-wired and interlinked heat detector. Individual bedrooms (with cooking equipment) need a mains-wired standalone smoke detector. They also need a mains-wired, interlinked heat detector
  • all smoke/heat detectors to be connected to a Grade-A fire panel. The system should be inspected and tested at 6 monthly intervals by a competent person. The tester should issue an inspection and testing certificate. All tests should be recorded in a logbook

Emergency lighting

Emergency lighting is not normally needed in small, low risk HMOs. There may be some cases where emergency lighting may be needed, for example if:

  • the escape route is complicated or long
  • there is not enough borrowed light
  • there are vulnerable occupiers.

You must maintain and test any emergency lighting annually using BS 5266: Part 1:2005.

Fire escape routes 

Doors

All doors that open to the escape route (that are required to be kept locked) shall be fitted with a type of lock that can be easily and quickly opened from the inside without the use of a key

Shared houses and non-shared houses

In a shared house, doors opening to the escape route need to be solid and of traditional construction. Panels must not be less than 3mm, and not broken or defective. Composite, hollow panel (egg-box) doors (on the escape route) are prohibited.

Bedsits

A 30-minute fire door must comply with BS 476: Part 22 (1987) and BS 476-31-1:1983 and BS 8214: (2016).

The fire door specifications are:

  • three x 100mm brass or steel butt hinges
  • an intumescent strip rebated into both edges and top, fitted either to the door or frame
  • 35 x 12.5mm door stops glued and screwed at 300mm centres
  • smoke seals fitted to the door or frame
  • the door must have overhead door closers capable of closing the door onto the latch
  • door closers must conform to BS EN 1154: 1997
  • all door furniture must be metal
  • the gap between door and frame must not exceed 3mm at any point

Inner rooms

Inner rooms are bedrooms that enter or exit directly into a risk room. These might be a shared lounge or kitchen. Inner rooms should be avoided where possible and ideally the outer room should not be an area of high risk.

Where inner rooms cannot be avoided, you must have extra fire safety measures, such as:

  • the inner room has access to a door or window opening onto an alternative safe escape route
  • escape windows must not be more than 4.5m above ground level, or 1.5m above the bedroom floor level 
  • escape windows must have an escape window leading directly to a place of ultimate safety. Ultimate safety is an area where tenants can escape to that is far enough from the HMO to stay safe in an emergency. It's defined as a distance at least as far as the house is tall. This could be the back of a rear garden that is longer (or as long) as the house is tall.   
  • the escape window must have an unobstructed openable area. It must be at least 0.33m² and have a minimum 450mm height and 450mm width
  • all alternative escapes must have a lock that is quickly and easily opened from inside without the use of a key
  • an automatic fire detection and warning system is in place. This will include extension of the smoke alarm/detection system into the inner room. This is to make sure the occupant is alerted to a fire in the high risk outer room
  • a FD30(S) door is fitted between the inner and outer rooms

Inner rooms due to layout and design (open plan)

This is when the main escape route (stairs) discharges through the current communal living area (risk room).

We would prefer you to have a stud wall partition with a door and frame separating staircase and risk room. This is create a protected escape route (corridor).

Under stairs and cupboards

  • high risk items such as whitegoods under the stairs should be moved into a communal risk room. If this isn't practical, the stairs should be underdrawn to give 30 minutes' fire resistance
  • the door to the under stairs cupboard should be a solid door. It should not be fitted with smoke brushes or intumescent strips. We will look at where the nearest smoke detectors are and their ability to sound in an emergency

Whitegoods and storage on escape routes

  • escape routes should not contain any sources of ignition. Appliances such as tumble driers and washing machines should be moved into risk rooms, unless this is not practical
  • appliances are commonly left on overnight to take advantage of lower energy tariffs. This is the most dangerous time for a fire to start
  • avoid the storage of other electrical and flammable items

Standards in HMOs

Kitchens

Legal requirements

There must be a kitchen, near to the living area. It must be the right size and layout to allow those sharing to store, prepare and cook food

The kitchen must have the following equipment. This must be fit for the purpose and there should be enough for the number of people sharing the facilities:

  • sinks with draining boards
  • a supply of cold and constant hot water to each sink supplied
  • installations or equipment for the cooking of food
  • electrical sockets
  • worktops for the preparation of food
  • cupboards for the storage of food or kitchen and cooking utensils
  • refrigerators with an adequate freezer section. (Where the freezer section is not adequate, adequate separate freezers)
  • rubbish bins
  • extractor fans, fire blankets and fire doors

Our standards

  • shared kitchens must have amenities (sink, fridge, cooker, 1m worktop space). One appliance for every 6 tenants.
  • each cooker in a shared kitchen is to have four rings or burners, and an oven and grill (or equivalent). Cookers should be safely located with space around them, on a secure surface
  • in a non-shared kitchen (for example, a bedsit) you must provide a sink; fridge; cooker and worktop as above. A hob with two rings instead of four will be ok
  • kitchens must have four 13-amp electric sockets (plus those needed in non-kitchen areas, for example in bedsits with a kitchen area)
  • sinks must have safe to drink cold water and a constant supply of hot water. They must be properly connected to the drainage system
  • kitchens must be of a suitable size. They must be located in relation to the individual lettings in the HMO

Washing facilities

Legal requirements

  • where all or some of the units in an HMO do not include washing and toilet facilities for the exclusive use of each individual household
  • where there are four or less occupiers sharing those facilities there must be at least one bathroom with a fixed bath or shower and a toilet
  • where there are five or more occupiers sharing those facilities there must be one separate toilet with wash basin (sink) with splash back for every five sharing occupiers
  • at least one bathroom (which may have a toilet) with a fixed bath or shower for every five sharing occupiers
  • all baths, showers and sinks must have taps giving an adequate supply of cold and constant hot water
  • all bathrooms must be suitably heated and ventilated
  • all bathrooms and toilets must be of an adequate size and layout
  • all baths, toilets and wash basins (sinks) in an HMO must be fit for the purpose
  • all bathrooms and toilets must be near the living accommodation

Our standards

  • the character of properties in Guildford mean wash basin (sink) are not normally needed in bedrooms. This may be a licence condition for some layouts (such as where the bathroom is not easily accessible)
  • each room containing a toilet must have a wash basin (sink) with constant hot and cold water and a splashback. It must be connected to the foul water drainage system
  • baths or showers and toilets should be provided in a ratio of one appliance for every 5 occupants
  • the toilet should be in a separate room to the main bathroom. Where this is not possible, we will look at each property on a case by case basis
  • a second toilet within a bathroom would be acceptable
  • wash basins (sink), showers, and baths must be provided with a constant supply of hot and cold water. They must be properly connected to the drainage system

Minimum HMO room size

These are the legal minimum standards, and we may set higher standards. For example kitchen facilities in a bedsit with a floor area of 10m2 is only suitable for one person.

If there are more occupiers than the levels we allow, you will have to reduce the numbers, or enlarge the room.

  • one person aged over 10 years has a room floor area no less than 6.51 square metres
  • two persons aged over 10 years has a room floor area no less than 10.22 square metres
  • one person aged under 10 years has a room floor area no less than 4.64 square metres
  • any room with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not used as sleeping accommodation
  • any area of the room in which the ceiling height is less than 1.5m cannot be counted towards the room size
  • your licence sets out the maximum number of people over 10 years of age and/or under 10 years who may occupy rooms

Assessing minimum room sizes

  • when assessing room size, we measure the floor area in the room
  • built-in wardrobes (floor to ceiling) will be included in our calculation
  • wardrobes not at floor level will not be counted
  • any area of the room taken by the staircase bulkhead will not be counted in the calculation
  • ensuite facilities will not be considered as part of the floor area of the room
  • you cannot use communal space in other parts of the HMO, to make up for bedrooms smaller than the legal minimum
  • where your property is being extended/converted, you need to meet the minimum bedroom size
  • the measured space in any room must be usable space. It must fit the required amount of furniture. It should allow space for movement about the room

Important reminder


There are no specific room sizes for kitchens and bathrooms. However, there must be adequate space in the rooms for ease of use. The rooms should have ventilation, lighting and heating.

Natural light and ventilation in a bedroom without windows will need ventilation from the exterior of the property. This is to give fresh air and a ventilation system to allow air to escape the room. This will be assessed on a case by case basis.

HMOs and planning permission

If your HMO is lived in by more than six people, you will need Planning and building control. Your licence will be limited to one year if you do not have the right planning consent when we grant your licence.

As the licence holder, you will be expected to get the appropriate planning consent within 12 months of the date of issue of this licence. Or you will have to reduce the number of people living in your property.

Bedroom sizes

  • the minimum bedroom size in a licensable HMO is 6.51m2
  • the minimum bedroom size in a large HMO with more than 6 occupants is 7.5m2

This is a national planning standard and has been approved in our Local Plan

Landlords are advised to check planning requirements before applying for planning consent.

Apply or a renew a HMO licence

Use this form to guide you through applying or renewing a HMO licence. 

Next steps after you submit your HMO application

After you submit your application, we may contact you if there is anything missing.

If your application is complete, we will send you an acknowledgement letter.

Our inspection

When we receive your application, we will arrange an inspection of the property. This is to assess the condition and suitability of your property.

Draft licence

Following our inspection, we will issue you with a draft licence called a Notice of Intention (NOI).

Consultation period

There will be a 21-day consultation period after we issue the NOI.

Representations against licence conditions

If you don't agree with a licence condition, you can object (make a representation) against it. This must be done within the 21-day consultation period.

We will check the representation. Then we may amend the licence/conditions as requested or reject the representation.

Full licence issued

After the 21-day consultation, we will issue your HMO licence, if there are no grounds to refuse it. You will receive a Notice to Grant (NOG).

Right of appeal

You have the right of appeal against conditions on the licence. This must be done within 28 days of the issue of the licence.

How long does a licence last?

Your HMO licence will normally be issued for 5 years from the application date. There may be a shorter licence period in some cases.

Displaying your licence

The HMO licence should be displayed in an easy to see, communal place in your property.

Renewing a licence

The licence holder or property manager must make sure that your licence is renewed.

You must tell us about any material changes to the property, such as:

  • redesign
  • changes in the type of occupation
  • changes in management/ownership