Tenants in HMOs – Know Your Rights
Senior Lettings Negotiator, Oli Watson, explains renting rules that apply to certain types of shared accommodation known as HMOs (House in Multiple Occupancy), the rights you have as tenants in HMOs, and what to do if you’re having problems with your landlord.
If you live in rented accommodation with two or more other housemates who are unrelated to you, then your house qualifies as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy).
HMOs require extra licensing and regulations for their landlords due to the additional risks to health, safety and wellbeing that can follow from unrelated and potentially unfamiliar people living together.
In October 2018, landlord regulations were updated to further protect the rights of tenants in HMOs. This was, in part, due to cases where landlords converted smaller rooms into bedrooms in a bid to increase the rental profit that they made from their property.
The laws are designed to ensure safe and decent living conditions, as well as restricting the power that landlords have over their tenants. Here is a rundown of your rights as tenants in HMOs, and where to go if you feel those rights are being violated.
The minimum size of a single bedroom in an HMO is 6.51 square metres. This size refers to the amount of usable floorspace in your room, with ‘usable floor space’ meaning that any part of the room where the floor-to-ceiling height is over 1.5 metres.
If you feel that your room is on the small side, it might be worth cracking out a tape measure and making sure that it meets the minimum specifications. You should also bear in mind that if there are two people living together in a double room (and both are paying rent), then the minimum required size is larger, at 10.22 square metres of usable floor space.
Shared living areas
A key difference between HMOs and traditional renting is that in HMOs, landlords are responsible for the safety and decency of the shared living areas. This includes bathrooms, toilets, kitchen and living areas.
The rules around the shared living areas of HMOs involve both the provision of necessary amenities and ensuring that safety standards are adhered to.
Specifically, landlords need to provide:
• At least one shower and toilet for every four tenants (this is not set in stone, but a typical minimum required ratio)
• Adequate cooking facilities, typically both a stove and an oven
• Waste disposal facilities outside of the building, which are routinely collected by the local council
Landlords are not legally required to have a communal living area for their tenants.
Rules that HMO landlords must adhere to include:
• Having smoke alarms in every room, as well as heat detectors and fire extinguishers in kitchens
• Ensuring that gas safety checks are carried out annually
• Having electrical safety checks carried out every 5 years
• Repairing any damage to communal areas promptly
Tenants’ Freedom from Intrusion from Landlords
As the communal areas of an HMO are legally under complete ownership of the landlord, landlords can access these parts of the property at any time. That being said, it is not completely unreasonable to ask your landlord to give 24 hours’ notice before they enter a property that you are living in.
Areas that you are renting (your bedroom) cannot be accessed by a landlord without your express permission, and landlords are required to give 24 hours’ notice for this permission.
There have recently been horror stories of landlords restricting the amount of energy their tenants can use, sometimes by keeping the thermostat locked away. This is illegal if energy bills are not included in the rent. In agreements where bills are included, the law is more ambiguous; although there is no explicit rule against landlords restricting tenants’ access to heating and electricity, landlords are required to provide adequate heating for their tenants. If you sign an agreement with energy bills included in the rent, you should ask your landlord before you move in, what bills are to be expected during each season.
Where to Go If Your Rights are Being Violated
There are three levels of escalation if you feel that your landlord is infringing on your rights as tenants in HMOs, or breaking the rules set out in their HMO licence.
- The first of these is to speak to your landlord directly. Your landlord may have neglected their property simply out of ignorance or absence. It’s always best to maintain a constructive relationship with your landlord, so point out to them any shortcomings of their property before you lodge an official complaint. Your landlord may be grateful that you have brought problems to their attention.
- Should speaking directly to your landlord fail, then you should make a formal complaint to your local council. It is your local council’s responsibility to ensure that the terms set out in an HMO licence are being adhered to. If the local council deems that an HMO property does not provide safe or decent living conditions to their tenants, then they will try to force a landlord to make the required changes to bring it up to standard. Should a landlord not comply with this, then they could face a fine of up to £20,000 and potentially end up with a criminal record.
- If you are being harassed by your landlord, you should contact the police. Harassment can include:
• Cutting off your energy supplies
• Entering your private room without consent or notice
• Threatening you with eviction even if you have kept your terms of the tenancy agreement
• Any other abusive or discriminatory behaviour
It’s understandable that as a tenant, you may feel vulnerable to the whims of your landlord, especially if you live in affordable housing for your area. However, everyone has the right to live in shelter that is safe, warm and has the amenities to let you live in dignity. If your housing does not meet this standard, then the law should be on your side.
Information correct at time of publication – 30 April 2020
Guest post by Oli Watson,
Senior Lettings Negotiator at
Find out more about living in shared accommodation
Types of tenancy, HMOs & sources of help