If you are letting out your property to 3 or more people from 2 or more different families, or you have converted one dwelling into flats your property is probably a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). All HMO properties must be registered with the Housing Executive. You can be prosecuted for running an unregistered HMO.
House in multiple occupation
A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property in which 3 or more people from 2 or more different families live. The definition of family includes people living together as a couple, parents, grandparents, children, spouses, brothers or sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.
There are different types of HMO. These include:
- bedsits or flats where private rooms are let to individual tenants but some amenities are shared;
- shared houses, where a group of people rent a property and share amenities such as the kitchen and bathroom;
- lodgings, properties where lodgers pay rent and live with the family of the homeowner
- hostels, bed & breakfasts and guest houses
- residential and care homes
- self contained flats, where a property has been converted into a number of self-contained flats.
Requirement to register
The Housing Executive usually expects that the owner of the property will become the "specified person" who is required to comply with the registration scheme.
If, for any reason, you are the owner of the house but have passed management or control of the property to another party you should inform the Housing Executive of this as soon as possible. You can nominate someone else to act as the "specified person", but you will have to prove that you have supplied this person with sufficient resources to carry out this role and that this person will act as the manager of the property.
It is the responsibility of the "specified person" to ensure that the Housing Executive is kept informed of any changes to the property's condition, such as plans to adapt the property or to sell or transfer ownership of the property.
Some properties are exempt from registration. These include
- a HMO occupied by no more than 2 people in addition to the owner or members of the owner's family
- residential and care homes
- properties which are occupied principally by members of a religious community for the purposes of carrying out a ministry
- a HMO which is occupied by persons who comprise no more than two families.
If you intend to let your property to students or to a group of people who are not members of one family unit, you will probably need to register it. If you are unsure, check with the Housing Executive.
Registering a HMO
To register a HMO for the first time, you will need to submit the following items to the Housing Executive:
- a completed application form for the Statutory Registration Scheme, available from the Housing Executive
- the appropriate fee, the amount payable depends on how many occupants the property is registered to hold,
- a valid current certificate which proves that the electrical installations in the property comply with the relevant guidelines, and
- a valid Gas Safety Certificate for any gas installations in the property.
Initial registration lasts for a period of 5 years. It is your responsibility to apply for a renewal of registration at least 6 months before your initial registration expires. Landlords of HMOs also need to register with the Northern Ireland Landlord Registrar. Although you need to submit your details to both registers, you'll only have to pay one fee.
Penalties for failing to register HMO
If you are a landlord of a HMO you must register with the Housing Executive. Failure to register can result in a fine of up to £20,000.
The Housing Executive has a statutory power to request that evidence is supplied to it to prove that all the people living in a property are members of one family, if it reasonably believes that the people living in the property are not all members of the same family. This notice can be served on you, the property owner, or the person managing or having control of the house. If you can't provide evidence to show that your tenants are all related to each other, the property will be classed as a HMO and you'll have to register it.
Restrictions on HMO type properties
In certain circumstances, the Housing Executive may refuse to register a new HMO. If your registration is refused, you may not operate the house as a HMO. This means there are restrictions on who can rent the property.
If the Housing Executive refuses your application, it must give you a written statement outlining its reasons for refusing the application. The Housing Executive can refuse an application in the following circumstances;
- the property is unsuitable and is incapable of being made suitable for multiple occupation,
- the "specified person" who has control of the property is not a "fit and proper" person. You may not be regarded as a "fit and proper" person if you have been convicted of any offences relating to management of a property, fraud, discrimination or dishonesty or has previously managed a HMO that did not comply with requirements,
- registering a new HMO may have an adverse effect on the character of the neighbourhood in which it is sited.
In addition, the Housing Executive has the power to revoke registration or impose conditions on registration. These could include imposing a requirement that your tenancy agreements include clauses relating to anti-social behaviour or that you carry out certain remedial works to the building.
Minimum standars in HMO properties
There are additional safety requirements that HMO properties are expected to meet. You must make sure that certain elements of the property meet the published standards. If your property doesn't meet these standards the Housing Executive can force you to carry out repairs