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Houses in multiple occupation

A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least 3 people who do not form one 'household', eg a family, but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

There are around 2000 HMOs in Swansea, many of which are located in the central wards of Castle, Uplands, Waterfront and St Thomas.

In order for a property to be an HMO it must be used as the tenants' only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers are treated as their only or main residence.  This also applies to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

The Housing Act 2004 introduced new definitions for an HMO. In order for a building, or part of a building, to form an HMO it must fall within the meaning of one of the following descriptions:

  • a building in which two or more households shares a basic amenity eg a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • a flat in which two or more households shares a basic amenity (all of which are in the flat) eg a bathroom, toilet or cooking facilities
  • a building which has been converted and does not entirely comprise of self-contained flats and which is occupied by people who do not form a single household
  • a building, or part of a building, which has been converted into self-contained flats where the conversion does not meet, at a minimum, the standard required by the 1991 Building Regulations, and less than two-thirds of the flats are owner occupied and where more than two people forming more than one household occupy the building (this type of building is also known as a section 257 HMO).

What is a single household?

People who are not all members of the same family do not form a single household. There are regulations describing specific circumstances where people will be regarded as a single household although they are not related. These include where accommodation is provided in a person's household for a nanny, au pair or carer.

What conditions apply to HMOs?

Some HMOs need to be licensed.  Even if the HMO does not need a licence landlords should still maintain the house and make sure it is a safe environment for the tenants to live in.

There are fire safety requirements that need to be met.  Extra requirements like fire doors, half an hour separation between rooms, fire alarm systems and fire extinguishers may also be required in some HMOs.

There should also be suitable kitchen and bathroom facilities.

What about HMOs that don't meet the standards?

If you are a tenant living in an HMO you should always try and resolve any problems with the landlord or manager first. They should deal with necessary repairs or maintenance and they also have to meet regulations about how the property is managed.

If your landlord or manager has not fixed the problem then you can contact us for help and advice.  Depending on your problem we may inspect the property and could serve an enforcement notice on the landlord or manager.  This will require them to do the work within a certain time period.  

If you're a student you may also find that the Students' Union or Advice Centre may by able to help you, especially if your query is about your tenancy agreement. Make sure that you're happy with the property and the contents of your tenancy agreement before you sign.

If you live in an HMO then you should look after the property and anything provided for your safety, like fire alarms and extinguishers. Don't prop fire doors open and make sure you keep the place clean and tidy. Put your rubbish and recycling out on the correct days in the correct coloured bags.  

If your landlord or manager makes an appointment to come and check the property, make sure you keep it or let them know in plenty of time if you need to change the time or date. That's the same advice for any appointments that council officers make to come and inspect the property.

What about converting a property to an HMO?

Under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, shared houses with three or more occupiers or properties converted into flats or bedsits need individual planning consent. For further information please contact Planning.

Records of properties that have obtained planning permission to become HMOs since the C4 Use Class came into operation in February 2016 are available on our approved HMO planning applications page.

You may also need building regulations approval and you will need to seek advice from the relevant officers

If the HMO is licensable you will still need to apply for an HMO licence.

HMO public register

The Housing Act 2004 requires every local authority to maintain a public register of premises licensed as a HMO.

HMO management

If you are managing an HMO you should be aware of your legal responsibilities and what you need to do to look after your property and your tenants.

Licensing of houses in multiple occupation

Landlords of certain houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) need to apply to license their properties.

Fees for houses in multiple occupation licences

Details of the costs for houses in multiple occupation licences including fees for additional occupants.

HMO safety and inspections

We inspect all HMOs before issuing a licence to make sure that the house safe for the occupants. After our first inspection we will provide a schedule of improvements to be made before a licence can be issued.

Frequently asked questions about houses in multiple occupation

Find out answers to the most common questions we get asked about houses in multiple occupation.

HMO planning applications

Information on HMOs (house in multiple occupation) and their planning process.
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