Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

We have produced some advice and guidance for tenants in private rented properties on how to manage during the coronavirus restriction.

The Landlord Focus newsletter contains advice and guidance for landlords on how to manage their properties during the coronavirus restriction.

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a house or flat occupied by three or more people, who form two or more households and share amenities (such as bathrooms or kitchens). Some buildings converted into self-contained flats can also be HMOs if they do not meet certain building regulations and more than a third of the flats are rented out.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – management pack

Summary of HMO regulations

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

With effect from 1st October 2018 all HMOs with five or more occupants need to have an HMO licence.  Please visit Gov.uk for guidance on the HMO legislation changes. You can also view a presentation on the changes to HMO licensing held at Reading Borough Council on 30 August 2018 here.

You can report unlicensed HMOs to us online – but please check our register of HMO licences first. This is a shortened version of the HMO Register.

If necessary, you can request other details held on the full public register that are not published online, but there is a charge of £34.00 for this and you will need to email hmo@reading.gov.uk  detailing what information you require, and then make a payment before the information is sent to you.

We will then send you an electronic copy of the register.

Warning: you may not extract or re-utilise information derived from the register and/or any copies of such information (whether electronic or in hard copy format) for any commercial or business purpose including but not limited to, trading, building commercial databases, reselling or redistribution of such information.

If someone becomes aware of a third party using information derived from the register in contravention of these terms and conditions this can be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The council does not currently run additional or selective licensing within the borough.

Apply

All applications for a HMO licence (new, renewal, variation, temporary exemption notice (TEN), cancelling a licence) must be made online.

What information will I need to provide?

Information required includes details on:

  • the licence holder;
  • the management;
  • any other ownership details;
  • the licensable property.

You will also be asked to supply:

  • A simple property layout plan including the location of baths; showers; wash hand basins; sinks; cookers; WCs and kitchen work surfaces. Room sizes are requested as part of the application form, if the room is an odd shape then please show dimensions.
    You may submit plans that you already hold, or draw your own sketch plan.  The plan does not need to be drawn to scale, you may use your own symbols but you must include a key so that they are easy to understand.
    If you would prefer to use a computer to produce your plan, there are various software graphics packages available, including ones specifically designed to illustrate buildings and room layouts. As long as the plan is easy to understand and shows the layout of the property and the various amenities listed above, it should be acceptable.
  • Where there is a gas supply in the property, a current landlord’s gas safety certificate prepared by a Gas Safe registered engineer;
  • A satisfactory Electrical Installation Condition Report, dated within the past five years. Alternatively, you may provide an Electrical Installation Certificate (dated within the past five years), covering the following works:
    • Complete renewal of the electrical installation within the property; or
    • Replacement of the electrical consumer unit, if the work covered all the electrical circuits in the property.
  • The certificate must have been provided by a member of a relevant competent persons’ scheme, such as NICEIC, Elecsa or NAPIT.
  • If there is a mains-powered automatic fire detection system with a control panel in the property, a test certificate from a competent engineer dated within the past 12 months showing the system has been tested in accordance with BS 5839 and is in satisfactory condition;
  • If there is a mains-powered automatic fire detection system that does not have a control panel and is new, an installation certificate from a competent person certifying the system has been installed in accordance with BS 5839.
  • If there is a mains-powered automatic fire detection system without a control panel which is not new, you can either provide a test certificate (dated within the past 12 months) from a competent engineer, or self-certify that the system has been serviced and is in proper working order.
  • If there is emergency lighting within the property, you must provide a copy of a certificate showing the lights have been tested in accordance with BS 5266 within the past 12 months and are in satisfactory condition;
  • For evidence of permanent residential address of the proposed licence holder(s), only ONE form of evidence is required from the following:
    • A copy of a driving licence
    • A copy of a recent bank or building society statement
    • A copy of a recent tax correspondence

What are the criteria for a licence to be granted?

Applications will be assessed to ensure all questions on the form have been answered and all the required information has been supplied. If this has not been provided, the application may be rejected.

Provided that a landlord has submitted a valid application, the HMO can continue to operate legally until the Council reaches its decision and any appeals against that decision are complete.

We will normally carry out an inspection of the property to check its suitability and to look for any serious hazards.

We may cross-check details of your property with any existing information already held. A consultation process will follow with internal departments of the Council, such as Housing Advice, Building Control and Planning. We may also consult with external organisations such as Thames Valley Police, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and other local authorities.

Before we can grant a licence, the Council has to be sure that:

  • the proposed licence holder and any manager of the property are fit and proper persons;
  • the proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence;
  • proper management arrangements are in place at the property; and
  • the HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable, for occupation by the number of occupants allowed under the licence, with at least the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities. These cover room sizes; the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets, cooking facilities, and provision for waste disposal

The licence holder must remove any serious (“category 1”) hazards in the property.  This is assessed using the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS). We will normally inspect your property as part of the licensing process and will tell you if there are any category 1 hazards and what work is required to remove them.

Any hazard from fire will be assessed under HHSRS as detailed above. You should not delay applying for a HMO licence until you have installed the necessary fire precautions, if your property is already licensable. Any fire safety improvements necessary will be dealt with as part of the inspection process.

Landlords and Letting Agents guide to HHSRS

More detail on the fire safety standards required for your property can be found in the Lacors guidance document ‘Housing – Fire Safety’ which is available to download for free from www.gov.uk .

If there are no serious objections and the required criteria are fulfilled, a draft licence will be sent out for consultation. If no further problems develop, a final licence will be granted at the end of the consultation period.

Do I need to obtain planning permission to obtain a licence, as my property is now an HMO?

The grant of an HMO licence does not confirm that any necessary planning permissions have been granted. You should be aware that the Council’s Planning Enforcement team is consulted as part of the licensing process, and that in some parts of Reading permitted development rights for the creation of small HMOs have been removed (see Article 4 Directions – Reading Borough Council). If you are in any doubt about the need for planning permission, you should contact the planning department for advice.

I employ someone else to manage my HMO for me – who has to apply?

The landlord can hold the licence or nominate someone else such as a manager or agent (with their agreement) to be the licence holder. The applicant should be the ‘most appropriate person’ to hold the licence, which will usually be the person who receives the rent. Licences are not transferable to another person.

Where managers are nominated as the licence holders, you must ensure that a suitable agreement is drawn up, clearly stating the responsibilities of both parties.

The licence holder can be more than one person.

How long does it take to process the application and what does this involve?

Our aim is to process complete applications within 10 weeks of receipt, but at times of high demand this may take longer.

Your application will be not be accepted as complete if you do not answer all of the questions, or if required documents or the licence fee are not submitted with your application. This will delay the processing of your application.

You can apply for a three-month temporary exemption from licensing if you are trying to turn the property into an unlicensable HMO or make sure it complies with the rules. If circumstances change and the property no longer needs a licence, you can write to us and you may get a partial refund.

You cannot transfer a licence. If you sell your HMO, the new owner will have to apply for a licence of their own.

Charges

The online application will take fees in 2 stages, an initial application fee (‘Part A fee’ ) covers the initial administration and then the remainder (‘Part B fee’). will be taken once the draft licence is issued and is towards the enforcement costs and management of the scheme.

Charges shown are the total Part A and part B fee for a licensable HMO for up to 5 years.  The table shows the fee for a HMO with up to 5 letting rooms/units; a supplement of £25 per additional letting room/unit will be applied. 

BandLicence feeLicence renewal fee
A – for those applicants who are accredited members of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) or Reading Rent with Confidence Scheme (RRWC) at the time the application is made £690£395
B – for ordinary new applicants£770£475
C – for landlords who did not licence their property correctly first time round£1,485£815

Please note that we are currently experiencing very high demand for HMO licence applications, as many of the existing HMO licences are due to expire. This unfortunately means there will be some delay in the processing of applications due to high volume. We will normally deal with licence applications in date order.

If you cannot apply online, or you need some help, please contact us at hmo@reading.gov.uk.

See also the following guides and example documents:

Guide to amenity standards applicable to mandatory licensable HMOs

Grade D fire detection and alarm installation completion certificate (BS5839: Part 6)

Grade D fire alarm systems self-declaration form

Example of a landlord/homeowner gas safety record

Examples of electrical testing forms from the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology)

Electronic correspondence consent form – this relates to issuing licences and draft licences by email. We intend to do this for HMO licence applications where we have consent from all relevant people. If we do not have consent from all relevant people, you may still receive some licences by post. If you consent to receiving documents in this way please complete and return the form, with the relevant information and signature(s) to hmo@reading.gov.uk.