Licences for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Penalties for not having a HMO licence

Failing to have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence is a criminal offence and subject to an unlimited fine. Listed below are details of possible breaches of HMOs:

  • it is a criminal offence to obstruct the local authority in carrying out their functions under Parts 1 to 4 and sections 239 and 240. Maximum penalty on summary conviction is currently £2,500
  • it is an offence if the landlord or person in control of the property fails to apply for a licence for a licensable property or allows a property to be occupied by more people than are permitted under the licence. An unlimited fine may be imposed
  • overcrowding carries an unlimited penalty. Landlords who breach other licence conditions can be fined £5,000 per offence

Under s.324 of the Housing Act 1985 a 'dwelling' (home) is overcrowded when the number of persons sleeping in the dwelling is such as to contravene:

  1. the standard specified in section 325 (the room standard), or
  2. the standard specified in section 326 (the space standard)

Defences for not having a licence

There are three defences available to someone who does not have the requisite licence:

  • when there is a reasonable excuse for his failure (section 72(1))
  • a notification had been duly given in respect of the house under section 62(1), (Temporary Exemption)
  • an application for a licence had been duly made in respect of the house under section 63, and that notification or application was still effective

A landlord who is required to have a licence for a HMO but doesn't, loses the right to automatic possession of the rented property under an assured shorthold lease under HA1988, s21 (as amended s.75).