What are my responsibilities as an HMO landlord? A few considerations

8 min read
Dec 30, 2020
Updated: May 9, 2024

So, you’ve made the choice to be an HMO landlord? A great move - but how aware are you of the additional responsibilities and legalities of running one?

Because of past situations where tenants have been found to be living in unsafe environments, additional rules have been put in place to protect tenants’ health and safety. In particular they are there to reduce the risk of fire and to ensure the provision of adequate facilities for the people living in HMOs. 

Most HMO properties require an HMO license and it’s wise to check with your local council for advice and assistance. If you have taken on more than one HMO property you will need a license for each property. HMO licenses are usually valid for 5 years, though some councils grant them for less, and they are only issued once specific conditions have been met. 

You will find a comprehensive breakdown of license requirements specifically across London Boroughs at https://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk.


Legal Responsibilities of an HMO Landlord

There are several mandatory obligations that an HMO landlord must abide by. Some will be familiar if you all have buy to let property. Here is a checklist of what they are:

  • An annual gas safety check

There is a statutory duty on all landlords of residential property to ensure that all gas appliances, pipe work and flues are maintained in a safe condition. An inspection must be carried out by a gas safe registered engineer after which you will be issued with a Gas Safety Certificate or CP12.

  • Electrical Installation Condition Report

Every electrical installation in an HMO must be inspected and tested by every 5 years and an Electrical Installation Condition report provided. If the local authority asks for this at any given time, it must be produced within 7 days. 

The Plugs and Sockets (Safety) Regulations 1994 requires that any plug, socket or adapter supplied for intended domestic use must comply with the appropriate current standard and that the live and neutral pins on plugs are part insulated. This will prevent shocks when removing plugs from sockets and all plugs are pre-wired.

  • Legionella risk assessment 

There is a legal requirement to carry out annual checks for legionnaire’s disease. Because there is an increased risk of legionella in HMOs compared to single lets, these are essential. Keep the records for 5 years. 

  • Room sizes within regulatory measurements:

- 6.51 square metres for an adult

- 10.22 square metres for two adults

- 4.64 square metres for a child under 10 years old

It should also be noted that any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not to be used as sleeping accommodation. You must make sure the property is not overcrowded and tenanted according room sizes.

  • Kitchen and Bathroom Facilities

All HMOs must have adequate provision of cooking and washing facilities for the number of tenants. If these are not met a license will not be granted or it can be revoked. 

  • Refuse Facilities 

HMOs must have enough suitable waste bins for the number of tenants in the property along with refuse storage facilities in line with the local authority refuse and recycling guidelines. 

  • Fire Safety Measures 

It is a common law duty to ensure that the property provided is safe and all residential properties in England and Wales must comply with building regulations. Because 

HMOs are considered to have a higher risk of a fire than single Lets and regular residential properties, higher standards are required. 

The best thing to do is contact your local HMO Enforcement Officer because HMO fire safety requirements vary by local authority. They will tell you what you need to do to comply with fire safety. This could include the installation of fire doors, supplying fire blankets and fire extinguishers, installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  

  • HMO Furniture and Furnishings 

Whilst it’s not a legal requirement, it is generally expected that HMOs are furnished.

Any furniture provided by the landlord must meet the fire resistance requirements in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. It should be noted that 

all furniture manufactured since March 1989 will comply with these regulations. Most will be marked with a label showing compliance!

  • Maintenance and Repair 

In addition, an HMO landlord will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of:

    • Any shared or communal areas of the property that are not minor
    • The water and gas pipes
    • Heaters, fixed radiators, storage heater and water heaters
    • The electrical wiring of the property
    • The outside of the property including its structure, window frames and walls
    • All sinks, showers, baths and toilets

You must also maintain the common parts of the HMO in good and clean decorative order, in a safe and working condition, and reasonably clear from obstruction.

  • Install a noticeboard with the following information:
    • Emergency Contact details
    • Fire escape information
    • Any other relevant health and safety information - a copy of the gas safety certificate
    • Landlord or property management details
    • Rubbish or recycling collection timetable
    • Council Tax and Utilities

As an HMO Landlord you will typically be funding council tax, television license, phone, internet and utilities. If it often a good approach to provide good broadband centrally with a TV license which would cover all TVs within the property.

Regulations for all Property Lettings

  • Fit for Human Habitation

It is a legal requirement that the entire property is fit for human habitation from beginning to the end of a tenancy. Factors considered if a house is unfit for human habitation could fall under the categories of disrepair, damp, amount of natural light, levels of ventilation.

  • Consent to let

Before letting any property, Landlords must obtain permission or inform their mortgage

Lender. The freeholder of leasehold properties should also be informed. If you as the landlord has lived in the property with a spouse or partner, do they have occupancy rights? Will the property be covered by your insurance company if it is let?

  • Tenancy Deposit Protection

With effect from June 2019, the new Tenant Fees Act reduces the charges that tenants face by getting rid of any hidden costs. It bans letting fees paid by private tenants in England. It also caps the security deposits they have to pay at five weeks' rent.

Any deposit taken from a tenant, must be held in a government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme with in 30 days of receiving the deposit. Also, within this same time period, landlords must also serve their tenants with Prescribed Information related to the deposit.

  • GDPR

All Landlords need to be mindful of GDPR when processing and controlling tenant information. Inform tenants of what personal information held, why it’s needed and how it could be used and for how long. 

Registration with the ICO is necessary if you store, use or delete personal data of a tenant on an electrical device such as a laptop, phone or tablet. 

  • Immigration Checks

Under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, Landlords in England must check if their prospective tenants have the legal right to be in the UK. In most cases, proof of ID and citizenship is enough. However, in more complex situations other paperwork may need to be checked in compliance with this law.


What should be included in an HMO Tenancy Agreement?

HMO tenancies tend to run for 12 months with a 6 months fixed period during which time, neither party can end the tenancy unless there’s been an infringement. As with single let tenancies, you will need to set out exactly what rights and obligations you have as a landlord and what is required of the tenant. 

 HMO tenancies can be joint tenancies so the agreement should include that the remaining tenants will need to cover the rent if one tenant doesn’t pay it.

 A tenancy agreement that is to include bills should set out exactly what’s included, when and how often the rent is due and how much deposit is required. Stipulate the penalties if payment is late.

The terms of an HMO license will mean the holder will be held to account for the tenant’s behaviour towards the neighbours. The tenancy agreement will need to state what constitutes a nuisance, guidance on how to avoid it, and what action will be taken if found to contravening the rules or complaints are received.

The very nature, and way of life, within an HMO (depending on the type of tenant living there) means the landlord could be required to settle disputes between the tenants. Because you can’t necessarily be able to rely on your tenants to keep communal areas clean, having a clear set of ‘house rules’, cleaners and dishwashers will aid keeping them in an acceptable condition. 

The tenancy agreement needs to make it clear who is responsible for which repairs. 

It’s usually the landlord that’s responsible for all the major repairs, but the agreement must stipulate areas and items that are the responsibility of the tenants. 


How to find time to Manage an HMO

There are many benefits to running an HMO. However, the challenge for letting agents and landlords is keeping updated with the legislation on all rental property and changing processes and controls accordingly.

The Management of an HMO property will take more of your time. This can be stressful and possibly even overwhelming, but it really doesn’t need to be. Aided by Konnexsion’s property management solution you will find you can manage operations on our all-in-one cloud-based platform. It streamlines everything including communications, portfolio management, sales, lettings, and tenant accounts.

Konnexsion doesn’t take away your obligations but it provides a user friendly tool to aid you in the management of them so you keep on top of your responsibilities. Get in touch today at contact@konnexsion.com or go to our website and sign up for one of our trial programmes.