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: http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200223/housing/4319/housing_in_multiple_occupation_hmo/18
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.