A house of multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as a dwelling that is occupied by two or more persons not living as a single household, but sharing certain facilities such as toilets, bathrooms and kitchens.
When determining whether a group of occupants form a single household, an enforcing authority will assess a number of areas, e.g. tenancy agreements, use of communal areas, relationship between residents, locks on bedroom doors, etc.
A household may comprise of a single person, a family of six people, or a couple living as partners.
Categories of HMOs
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has grouped HMOs into six categories, dependent on their type of multi-occupancy. The categories are as follows:
- Category A: Houses occupied as single household rooms, where there is some exclusive occupation and some sharing of amenities (bathroom, toilet, kitchen, etc.). Each occupant/household lives otherwise independent of others.
- Category B: Houses occupied on a shared basis. These are normally occupied by members of a defined group, e.g. students. The occupants each enjoy exclusive use of a bedroom but would share other facilities.
- Category C: Houses with shared facilities occupied by people whose accommodation is ancillary to their employment, or education with a recognised educational establishment.
- Category D: Guest houses, hostels, bed & breakfast hotels and the like. These provide accommodation for people with no other permanent place of residence, as distinct from hotels that provide accommodation for temporary visitors/tourists.
- Category E: Houses/hostels providing accommodation and board for specific need groups registered under the Registered Homes Act.
- Category F: Self-contained flats, not built or converted in accordance with Building Regulations, with shared access (e.g. halls, landings and stairs).
The most common types of HMO are:
- Houses divided into bedsits or flatlets;
- Houses occupied by three or more students; or
- Bed & breakfast establishments accommodating homeless people.
When a property is in multiple occupation, the risk of fire breaking out is greater than in an ordinary single family home. Some of the reasons for this are:
- Portable heating appliances being used.
- There is often more than one kitchen present, and kitchens can be shared by a number of individual residents.
- Electrical circuits becoming overloaded.
- There are more people in the house who are living independently of, and have no control over, each other’s behaviour.