Category Archives: HMO

How many people does it take to make a House in Multiple Occupation?


Just to make it complicated, I can think of at least four definitions of a House in Multiple Occupation. It all depends on who’s asking, but there is one key definition all landlords should be aware of.

Any property containing three or more people in two or more households, counts as a HMO in relation to the HMO Management Regulations. This definition has nothing to do HMO licensing or the less strict criteria that Planning or Council Tax departments might have. But for HMO management regulations, it’s simple; any property that meets the three- into- two rule counts.

Here’s an example of how you could unexpectedly end up with an HMO. Two unrelated female friends rent a flat as together. Obviously, it’s not an HMO. You didn’t realise when they moved in though that one of them was pregnant. Three months into the tenancy, she has her baby. You now have three people, in two households and bingo! It’s a HMO and the regulations kick in. And if you are not complying properly, you could face some very steep financial penalties. Penalties which Sandwell will be enforcing.

I won’t go through the regulations; you can find the information you need on our website here:

One final thing to be aware of: if you own a HMO property, but someone has contracted to manage it for you, or is renting the whole property from you but sub-letting it, you, as principle owner might still be regarded as responsible for any breaches!

If you do own or manage a HMO, please make sure you understand your responsibilities now.


HMO licensing

Merry Christmas

This blog has two halves.

A couple of years ago, I combined the Christmas message from the blog, with some reminders about Income Tax; which probably made me look like the most miserable, Grinch-like council officer in the country. This year, I’m going one better. It’s Christmas plus a warning on civil penalties.

I’ll do the nasty bit first.

We have been issuing warnings about the new regulations on HMO licensing for quite some time. If you don’t have a licence where one is required – you can face penalties up to £30,000. Some councils are ahead of Sandwell on this and have already taken some forceful action with very expensive consequences for the landlords concerned. We intend to catch up.

Of course, most landlords do the right thing, but we still have our share of non-compliers who have had enough chances to apply for a licence. So from now on – we are actively seeking out landlords breaking the law and we will take full action to impose penalties. Here’s a reminder; the penalties are up to £30,000and a potential criminal record and just to make the message stick – a rent repayment order on top so that tenants get refunded the rent they have already paid.

Any landlord still needing a licence should contact us immediately. This is not a formal promise, but we are very unlikely to take action against someone who comes forward and identifies themselves to us, before we find them. So it’s not too late to avoid sanctions. But if we catch a landlord before they come to us – they should expect the full penalties to be applied. Anyone trying to evade detection, should be aware that councils have a great deal of information about housing stock in their areas and various ways of checking on who lives where.

We won’t apologise for enforcing the law. Unlicensed HMOs avoid the inspections and checks needed to make tenants safe and this council takes very seriously its obligations to those tenants.

Now I’ll do the nicer bit . . .

Unfortunately a lot of posts on this blog are about unpleasant subjects or things that can go wrong. We also have to put out lots of posts about enforcement actions of one sort or another (as above) which can make it look as if all do is give bad news and tell people off. But the subjects we have to cover in the blog – are very often things we are obliged to cover. They don’t reflect the fact that Sandwell actually has a great many good or even excellent landlords and agents, providing quality homes for their tenants.

We have some really good working relationships with those landlords and on a more personal level – we – that’s both of your blog editors – Oliver and Liz – are very grateful for the understanding landlords show when we deal with difficult issues and the support and cooperation we so often receive.

So on that note, Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Oliver Wright and Liz Mooney

HMO DEADLINE . . . It’s here . . .

HMO Deadline

If you are the landlord of a House in Multiple Occupation that requires a license – and you have not yet completed your license application, ACT NOW.

We know the vast majority of our landlords are complying with the law – but here’s a reminder just in case.

It is now a CRIMINAL OFFENCE not to have a license and you can face penalties of up to £30,000.

Apply on line or find out if your property needs a license here:

Remember – ignorance of the rules is not a valid defence if you are found to be outside the law.

Contact us before we contact you.