Houses in multiple occupation with five or more tenants belonging to two or more households, require a licence from the council.

Landlords and agents who fail to apply for a licence can face criminal prosecution with unlimited fines, a penalty fine of up to £30,000 and potentially rent repayment orders.

 What is a house in multiple occupation?

If you let a property which is one of the following types it is a house in multiple occupation:

  • an entire house or flat let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • a house which has been converted entirely into bed-sits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities
  • a converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self contained and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households
  • an existing house which is to be converted may require planning permission
  • a building that is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies

In order to be a house in multiple occupation the property must be used as the tenants' only or main residence, and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence and the same will apply to properties used as hostel-type accommodation.

Legal requirements for houses in multiple occupation

The following are some of the main legislative controls covering houses in multiple occupation. The Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme is the way councils have to assess housing conditions. It is a risk assessment approach to the hazards that affect health and safety of residents in a property. For more information, please see Housing health and safety rating scheme Download (2.05MB)

  • Fire safety Due to the increased fire risk in houses in multiple occupation, an adequate means of escape in event of a fire and adequate levels of fire precautions are required.
  • HMO management regulations 2006 These aim to ensure that through good day-to-day management, proper standards of health, safety and cleanliness are maintained. They place obligations on both the manager and residents.
  • HMO licensing requirements Licensable houses in multiple occupation are required to meet mandatory and discretionary licence conditions, and comply with adopted standards such as minimum room sizes, amenity provision and standards for fire safety.

Is there a minimum legal room size?

Yes. Regulations were introduced in 2018 which required local authorities to apply minimum room sizes to licensable HMOs. These regulations are as follows:

- Any room in an HMO used for sleeping accommodation for a person aged over 10 must be not less than 6.51 square meters. 

-  Any room in an HMO used for sleeping accommodation for two persons aged 10 or over must be not less than 10.22 square meters. 

- Any room in an HMO used for sleeping accommodation by one person under 10 must not be less than 4.64 square meters. 

- Any room in an HMO which is less than 4.64 square meters is not to be used as sleeping accommodation. 


There is a legal requirement placed on local authorities to determine the maximum number of occupiers an HMO is suitable for before granting a licence. To assist landlords in understanding how we take this decision, please refer to our HMO standards document (available from the downloads section). Whilst this is guidance only and not a legal standard, officers shall have regard to this guidance when taking decisions around levels of occupancy per room and the overall permitted occupancy number for the HMO. This is important to ensure consistency in decision making. There is a right of appeal to the Property Tribunal with regard to permitted occupancy numbers, however judicial members sitting on the panel must have regard for locally adopted standards (but are not ultimately bound by them). If you have been issued with a draft licence and are not happy with the decision made by the officer, it's important you make representations to them. Officers have discretion to move away from the guidance standard if there is a strong argument to do so (clearly there can't be any discretion used if the legal standard is not met). 

Do I need planning permission?

We encourage all applicants to ensure they have the required planning permission before submitting a HMO licence application. Furthermore, Doncaster Council has made an Article 4 Direction which means that anyone who wants to convert a property to an HMO, in the defined area, will need to apply for planning permission.  Details of the Article 4 area can be found on the Council’s website.  Outside the Article 4 area, planning permission will be required for any HMO with more than 6 people.

 The Government actively encourage all Councils to ensure planning permission has been given before issuing a licence.  Therefore, the Council will not look to grant an HMO licence, or restrict the number of occupants, unless the appropriate planning permission, where required, has already been given.

 Advice on how to apply for or check that you have the appropriate planning permission can be found here:

Further information

  • Planning Portal - Change of Use
  • The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Additional Provisions) (England) Regulations 2007 (as amended) see download below:
The licensing and management of houses in multiple occupation
Download (66KB)

Revision of HMO standards

The Sept 2023 revision of this document is predominantly formatting with the additions of hyperlinks.

The general guidance standards have been updated to reflect legislation changes in relation to smoke and carbon monoxide detection, electrical safety and minimum energy efficiency standards.  

The contact information has been updated with links to relevant web pages for further details and contact methods.

Last updated: 09 May 2024 12:43:07

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