Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

Mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) was extended by the Government on the 1st October 2018. The new legislation removed the requirement for a property to have three or more storeys.

Therefore, if you rent out a property regardless of the number of storeys to five or more occupants in two or more households and they share any of the amenities such as a WC, personal washing facilities and/or cooking facilities, or where any of the amenities are not located within a flat, you must have a HMO licence.

The government also introducing minimum room sizes for sleeping accommodation in licensable HMOs. The sleeping accommodation requirements are as follows:

  • a minimum floor area for any sleeping accommodation occupied by a single person under 10 years of age to be 4.64m².
  • a minimum floor area for any sleeping accommodation occupied by a single person is 6.51m².
    This standard will be adopted for all HMOs where there are separate communal living areas of sufficient size for the number of occupiers and households in the HMO.
  • a minimum floor area for any sleeping accommodation occupied by two persons is 10.22m²
    This standard will be adopted for all HMOs where there are separate communal living areas of sufficient size for the number of occupiers and households in the HMO.

The new legislation also requires landlords and agents to have appropriate and adequate arrangements in place for the storage and disposal of household waste, pending collection.

When is a HMO licence needed?

HMO licences are required for properties that meet the following criteria:

  • occupied by five or more unrelated people forming two or more households and it is their main and only place of residence; and
  • the people living there share amenities such as WC, personal washing facilities, or cooking facilities or where any of the units of accommodation are not fully self-contained

A household can be a single person or certain members of the same family who live together.

It is a criminal offence for a person to have control of a licensable HMO and not apply for a licence. Wirral Council can prosecute or impose a Civil Penalty of up to £30,000.

Please be aware that although a HMO may not require a mandatory HMO licence. Wirral council do currently operate a selective licensing scheme which smaller HMO’s may require a selective licence.  Please refer to the selective licensing scheme page for more information.

Apply for a mandatory HMO licence

If you are a property owner or a managing agent of a HMO, you must make a full and valid application for a HMO licence to comply with the new requirements. You can complete an online application:

Apply online for a licence

A paper application can be made, however please note additional fees for the administration of the paper application will apply. If you wish to complete a paper application form you can download it. Please be aware that there will be additional costs for the administration of a paper application.

It is the responsibility of the licence holder, property owner, manager or managing agent to ensure the property has a valid HMO licence at all times.

Current fees

  • initial fee - £650.00 for a three year licence for a HMO with five units of accommodation
  • additional fee - £30.00 for each additional unit over the five units of accommodation

A £50 discount is available on the initial fee for applicants who were accredited with Wirral Council before the 28 February 2018, or are currently accredited with an approved third party scheme, these being either the National Landlords Association or Residential Landlords Association.

The initial fee for a paper application will be charged at £750 due to administration costs plus £30 for each the additional unit of accommodation over five units.

Processing time for a mandatory HMO licence?

The council will endeavour to issue a licence as soon as possible after you have submitted all relevant documents with your application. This should take no longer than 8 weeks, however if for any reason the licence has not been issued during this period, a licence will be automatically authorised and issued.

The only exception to this will be applications deemed to be more complex.  With these particular cases, the period will only be extended once and for a limited time. In such instances, the applicant will be notified accordingly before the expiration of the original 8 week period.

Licensed properties and licence holders

To search for licensed HMO properties before 1 October 2018 please use the link below:

To search for licensed HMO properties on or after 1 October 2018 please use the link below:

A copy of the full HMO public register that provides all details required by the legislation can be viewed at Wallasey Town Hall, on request.

To make an appointment to view this register please write to the HMO Team at the below address or alternatively email [email protected]. Please note, Wirral Council reserves the right to charge for this service in accordance with Section 232(5) of the Housing Act 2004.

How does HMO licensing work?

Anyone who owns or manages a licensable HMO must ensure that a licence is applied for.  The Council must grant a licence if it is satisfied that the:

  • HMO is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of people allowed under the licence,
  • proposed licence holder is a fit and proper person,
  • proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence,
  • proposed Manager (if any) is also a fit and proper,
  • proposed management arrangements are satisfactory, the person involved in the management of the HMO is competent and the financial structures for the management are suitable.

What does ‘fit and proper person’ mean?

In deciding whether someone is fit and proper, the Council must take into account:

  • any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud
  • whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues
  • whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination
  • whether the person has previously managed HMOs that have broken any approved code of practice

The council may carry out further checks to make sure that the person applying for the licence is a fit and proper person. It is advisable for the landlord or manager to be a member of a professionally recognised body, or a recognised landlords association.

What is in a licence?

A licence must contain certain mandatory conditions as required by the Housing Act 2004. The licence will set out the maximum number of persons and households who may live in the HMO.

The council can also apply their own licence conditions, however it should be noted that the conditions will vary property to property.

There are prescribed standards for deciding the suitability for occupation of a licensed HMO by a particular maximum number of households or persons which can be found in The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006, schedule 3. In general it provides standards such as:

  • providing heating requirements
  • washing facilities
  • kitchens
  • units of living accommodation without shared basic amenity
  • to provide additional bathrooms or personal washing facilities
  • to provide kitchen facilities for the exclusive use of the occupant(s) of designated rooms

Penalties and Sanctions

Prosecution

Failure to apply for a licence when required is an offence punishable on summary conviction to an unlimited fine.  Alternative a Civil Penalty Notice of up to £30,000 can be issued. 

Repayment of rent

Tenants including former tenants living at the property whilst it was unlicensed or the Council may apply to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) to reclaim up to 12 months’ rent from the landlord.  Apply for an RRO.

Exceeding maximum number of persons or households

Letting a licensed HMO to more than the maximum number of occupants and households as stated on the licence is an offence punishable on summary conviction to an unlimited fine.  Alternatively a Civil Penalty Notice of up to £30,000 is an option available to the local authority.

Failing to comply with licence conditions

Anyone failing to comply with licence conditions commits an offence punishable on summary conviction to an unlimited fine per offence.  A Civil Penalty Notice up to £30,000 is an alternative sanction available to the local authority.

Temporary exemption from HMO licensing

If an owner or manager of an HMO intends to carry out alterations to the property that would result in the property falling outside of the scope of HMO licensing e.g. converting the property into entirely self-contained flats so that facilities are no longer shared; he or she may apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice (TEN).

A TEN is a discretionary measure and lasts for three months and ensures that a property is in the process of being converted from a HMO that needs to be licensed. If the situation is not resolved, then a second Temporary Exemption Notice may be issued in exceptional circumstances. When the second TEN runs out and the property remains licensable, it must either be licensed, become subject to an Interim Management Order, or cease to be a HMO.

It is unlikely that this discretionary measure can be used to reduce the number of persons occupying the HMO property due to the provisions set out for the recovery of possessions in current legislation.

More information

For further guidance on the application process email [email protected]

You can also write to:

Housing Standards Team
PO Box 290
Brighton Street
Wirral
CH27 9FQ