HMOs in Government sights as licensing consultation launched and minimum room size proposed

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

On Friday 6 November 2015, the government published a consultation paper on changes to mandatory Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing in England. A new definition for HMOs could bring in smaller properties under mandatory licensing.

The RLA will submit a full response to the consultation. Individual landlords are also able to provide their thoughts. You can read the consultation in full and respond on the Government website: Extending mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation and related reforms (click for more information).

The RLA is conducting a survey to measure industry perception on the topic and will present findings to Government as part of the consultation response.

At present mandatory HMO licensing is restricted to properties that are three or more storeys high, containing five or more people in two or more households with shared facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. These proposals aim to amend the three-storey criteria for licensing, either by changing it to two-storey or extending licensing to all HMOs containing five or more people.

The Government is also considering a new national minimum room sizes along the lines of the statutory overcrowding standard in Section 326 of the Housing Act 1985 (6.5 sqm for a single room and 10.2 sqm for a double room). Councils would retain flexibility to set their own higher room sizes, possibly meaning an increase in minimum HMO room sizes in many areas.

The Government has said that they intend to introduce the changes in 2016.

The Housing Minister commented on the proposals in a DCLG press release: New measures to tackle rogue landlords and overcrowded housing.

Further Information


About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.


  • As a student and again as an adult I Ioved my two ‘box rooms’. I had full access to living room, kitchen etc… Not only that I got to pay a little less than my fellow students that meant I could spend my money on other more important things.

    It’s not the size of the room, it’s the overall deal, layout, access to shared space… If there are good, cheap, options people will take them in preference to anything unsuitable.

    My main concern is that whilst we need more accommodation for people HMOs are perceived in a poor light.

    It’s time for the Government to promote good examples of HMOs as one of many solutions to the housing crisis. Rather than encouraging property developers to build on green field sites. HMOs currently add more stress to landlords and more costs to tenants.

  • I have no problem with measures that seek to ensure that landlords act responsibly. My issue is that most of the ideas that are put forward do not achieve this. Mandatory licensing will not weed out rogue landlords, but will generate income from responsible landlords. If this income is used to actively seek out and punish rogue landlords, then I support it. However, if the measures do not provide for this then I suspect this will simply be a tax to enable councils to spend money elsewhere, or to enable central government to reduce funding to councils. This will do nothing to improve the situation for tenants.

  • When the Housing Health & Safety Rating System is applied to prescriptive standards, such as room size minima, it is incapable of measuring the benefits of the housing “defect”, such as those described by Anna Smith above – it only measures the (psychiatric) harm to the occupant.
    The box room in most 1930s houses is less than 5 square metres, so there will be lots of displaced tenants if HMO licensing is extended to such premises, as the current legal minimum is 6.5 square metres.
    These prescriptions disregard the tenant’s needs: There are many “part-time” tenants such as those who save on commuting from home by renting somewhere affordable near work, or those who need a place of solitude to regularly escape the pressures of family life etc

  • I’ve always sought to avoid compulsory licensing by only running 4/5-person HMOs in conventional two-storey houses, always making sure there are at least two toilets, at least one reception room and plenty of bicycle storage and car parking. Why avoid licensing? Because in my experience the EHOs who evaluate licensed houses are pernickerty and don’t understand the legislation. I once made the fatal mistake in 2006 of asking an EHO in Oxford for advice on how to install an extra room in the loft of my 5-person Victorian HMO, a large house with ample shared facilities. I was given sensible advice about the need to protect the new stairwell with fireboarding, a fire door and so on, but I was also told that I would have to install handbasins in every room, replace every attractive Victorian-era panel door with a 30-minute flat-fronted firedoor with intumescent strips and self-closers (which would promptly be propped permanently open by the tenants), install a hard-wired smoke and radiant heat fire alarm circuit, lockable covered bike storage sheds for 6 bicycles in the tiny front garden (if Planning objected, I would have to shut down the HMO), install fireboarding on the underside of every step on the staircase, install illuminated fire escape signs on every floor, and so on. It was utterly ridiculous: he appeared to view houseshares as equivalent to self-contained bedsits or a hotel, with no understanding of their unique characteristics as places to live, which are no more dangerous than a house shared by a couple and their three adult children.

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