HMO application guidance

9 min read

This page provides information about the criteria for HMO licences, the application process to obtain them and what to do when buying/selling a HMO.

On this page:

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

All HMOs with five or more occupants need to have an HMO licence. Please visit New guidance for landlords to further protect tenants from poor living conditions. Previous rules about occupants of shared houses being one household no longer apply, a household is generally people who are related or in a relationship. The number of occupants is the main factor in determining if a licence is required, not the number of bedrooms. It is an offence to operate without a licence where one is legally required. You can apply for a temporary exemption if you are taking steps to bring the property outside the scope of the licensing scheme. Usually this would involve a reduction in the number of occupants, to 4 or fewer.

What information will I need to provide?

Information required for a HMO licence application includes details on:

  • The licence holder
  • The management
  • Any other ownership details
  • The licensable property
  • 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.
  • 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. The certificate must have been provided by a member of a relevant competent person’s scheme, such as NICEIC, Elecsa or NAPIT. Alternatively, you may provide an Electrical Installation Certificate (dated within the past five years), covering the following; 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.
  • 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 58391.
  • 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. Please note, you do not need to install emergency lighting to apply for a licence – the need for emergency lighting will be determined at the licensing inspection.
  • 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 or A copy of a recent utility bill (electric/gas/water).

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 must 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

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.


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 put towards the enforcement costs and management of the scheme.

The table shows the fee for a HMO with up to 5 letting rooms/units; a supplement of £27 per additional letting room/unit will be applied.
Charges shown are the total Part A and Part B fee combined, for a licence lasting up to 5 years.

BandLicence fee
A – reduced rate is for those applicants who are accredited members of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) (ordinary membership without the accreditation does not attract this discount). A reduction is also offered to landlords who are members of the Reading Rent with Confidence Scheme (RRWC). The property must be accredited at the time the application is made£800
B – standard rate for non-accredited applicants£950

If you cannot apply online, or you need some help, please contact us at Our libraries offer internet access, which you may be able to use to complete your application. We may be able to help but there is an additional fee for this, your managing agent may also be able to assist.

Type of fee/chargeFee excluding VAT/including VAT
Non-Statutory charge to assist with completing the MetaStreet online Licence application form (hourly)£90/£108
Administration charge for copies of HMO licences, copies of notices, landlord information pack, HMO Licence Register and bounced cheques£33.33/£40


If circumstances change while you have an application pending and the property no longer needs a licence, you can email us and you may get a partial refund. A full refund will only be paid if the draft licence has not yet been issued, or if no licence was required for example if there were less than 5 occupants. If a property with a licence is sold or does not require a licence anymore then you can apply online to revoke the licence.


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 ). 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 of a valid application (once all the required paperwork and fee are received), but at present this may take significantly longer. We will normally deal with licence applications in date order. Your application will not be accepted as complete if required documents or the licence fee are not submitted with your application. This will delay the
processing of your application.

I have bought/sold a HMO that already has a licence, what do I need to do?

If a property with a licence is sold or does not require a licence anymore then you can apply online to revoke the licence here. You cannot transfer a licence. If you sell your HMO, the new owner will have to apply for a licence of their own.

Further information

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 issue licence documents by email only 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 or submit it as an additional document through the portal.


All applications for a HMO licence (new, renewal, variation) or for a temporary exemption notice (TEN), must be made online, if you are unable to apply online contact us at and we may be able to help, this will incur an extra fee.

Last updated on 04/06/2024