Houses in multiple occupation (HMO's)

Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation

The council's Licensing Team is responsible for licensing of houses in multiple occupation.

The Scottish Government introduced mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in October 2000. The purpose of licensing is to ensure that HMOs meet minimum standards of accommodation and safety for tenants and are managed so that they are not a source of nuisance in the neighbourhood.

What is an HMO?

A House in Multiple Occupation is a house which is the only or principal residence of three or more unrelated persons or family units where they share use of a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities. A HMO licence is required for every house or flat that is occupied in this way. Flats or bedsits which are otherwise separate, are considered part of one house if they share cooking, washing or toilet facilities. Resident landlords and members of their family are not counted when the number of occupants is calculated, so they only need a licence if they have three or more tenants living with them.

The Licensing Process

The owner of the house is responsible for applying for and obtaining an HMO licence from the council. Before awarding a licence, the council's Environmental Protection and Building Standards teams, in conjunction with Scottish Fire & Rescue, will make sure that acceptable standards are met.

The owner must then complete and display a notice outside the property (in an accessible location for the public) for 21 days from the date of the licence application. This notice advises local residents of the HMO Licence Application and gives them the opportunity to object to the application should they wish. Once this notice has been displayed for the required time, the owner must complete and return the Certificate of Compliance, confirming the dates that the notice was displayed and any measures taken to replace the notice if it had been removed or damaged at any time during the 21 days.

The required documentation as detailed in the application pack must also be submitted. As a minimum for a licence application to be accepted by the council, a cheque for the required amount and plans for the property must be received along with the application form. All other documentation can be submitted thereafter, as it becomes available.

We will check that the owner and any proposed day-to-day manager of the premises are 'fit and proper' persons to operate an HMO, this is undertaken by Police Scotland.

A joint inspection of the property is undertaken by Environmental Protection, a Building Control Officer and a Fire Officer.

Reports are then sent to the owner/applicant advising of any works required. Once any required works are undertaken and if all required documentation has been received, assuming all is in order the Licence can be issued.

What do we look for?

  1. Fire Safety - including Fire Risk Assessment, Automatic Fire Detection, Fire Doors, Emergency Lighting, Signage, Escape Routes, Training.
  2. Management of the property including licensing conditions, tenancy/occupancy agreements.
  3. Physical standards including complaince with Building regulations, space and layout, kitchens, sanitary facilities, water and drainage, space heating, lighting and ventilation, gas and electrical safety, noise reduction, anti-social behaviour issues and security.

What if objections to the licence application are received?

If no objections are received, the Licensing team have delegated powers to determine applications.

If objections are received then a comprehensive report is prepared and presented to the Council's Licensing Sub-Committee. Objectors and the applicant are given the opportunity to attend and speak at this meeting.

Fees (From 1st April 2017)

Licence fees are as follows:

  • 3 - 5 Occupants £420.00
  • 6 -10 Occupants £680.00
  • 11-20 Occupants £1,040.00
  • 21-30 Occupants £1,250.00
  • 31-40 Occupants £1,455.00
  • 41-50 Occupants £1,665.00
  • 51-75 Occupants £2,180.00
  • 76-100 Occupants £2,700.00
  • 101-200 Occupants £3,740.00
  • 201+ Occupants £4,775.00

Additional Inspections after the first inspection for each licence application £50.00 per officer.

Licence Variations:

  • Change of Ownership Prior to Grant of Licence £150.00*
  • Change to Day to Day Manager or Agent £150.00
  • Change of Occupancy £150.00
  • Change of Physical Layout of the Property £150.00

* Where a change of ownership occurs after the grant of a licence, then a brand new application in the names of the new owners is required, along with payment of the full application fees.

Duplicate Licences will be issued upon payment of £25.00

Fees will be altered in line with the Retail Prices Index on the first day of April each year.

Licences generally last for 3 years but the Licence period can be shortened if deemed necessary.

A refund of 20% is granted to unsuccessful applicants for Licences.

Application Forms & Documents

Planning

HMOs may fall into one of three classes - Class 7: Hotels and Hostels, Class 8: Residential institutions, or Class 9: Houses - or may fall outwith all these classes. Changes of use between classes are development for planning purposes and will therefore require planning permission.

If the occupation of a house changed from family use to an HMO with no more than 5 occupants, there would therefore be no requirement to obtain planning permission for a change of use on that ground alone. However, a change from a family home, however large the family, to a house with more than5 occupants who do not form a family, may represent a change of use constituting development, depending on the circumstances of the case. Where development was involved, and the multiple occupation was not a 'lawful use', planning permission would be required.

Unlicensed HMOs

If you suspect that a property is being operated as an unlicensed HMO then please contact the Licensing Team on 01620 828763 or email hmo@eastlothian.gov.uk

Further information is available from the Scottish Government website.