If your property is likely to be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you will need to make sure you comply with additional requirements before you are ready to put the property on the market. Your property will be a HMO if
- there are 3 or more people from 2 or more families living in it, e.g. a group of young professionals or students or a couple living with an unrelated friend or
- it is a flat in a building which was originally one dwelling house.
If your property does not meet specific safety standards and is not registered as a HMO you will not be able to rent to groups of unrelated people and will be limited to renting to families.
If there are 3 or more people who are not related living in the property or one dwelling has been converted into flats your property is probably a HMO. Your property will also be a HMO if it is a Most HMOs landlords need to register their details and the details of any HMO properties they manage with the Housing Executive.
There are specific standards relating to the size of rooms, fire safety and amenities provided in a HMO. Additional legislation specifies how you are expected to manage a HMO. The Housing Executive has produced a Good Practice Guide for landlords of HMOs which can help you to make sure you are doing everything that is required.
If the Housing Executive suspects that your HMO is overcrowded, you could be prosecuted. If two people of opposite genders, who are neither a cohabiting couple or both children under the age of 12, have to share a room, your property will be seen as overcrowded.
The floor area of a room also determines how many people can sleep in it:
- floor area at least 70 sq ft (6.5 sq metres approx) = 1 person
- floor area at least 110 sq feet (11 sq metres approx) = 2 people
- floor area at least 150 sq feet (15 sq metres approx) = 3 people
For the space and floor area calculations:
- children under one year old are ignored
- children under 12 years old count as a half
- rooms under 50 square feet are ignored
You must ensure that the building has:
- fire alarms,
- fire extinguishers,
- fire blankets,
- fire doors,
- fire escapes and fire escape routes,
- smoke or heat alarms.
These must be adequate for the number of people living in the property and the size of the property. You must make sure that the fire safety measures are maintained and arrange for regular checks. Your fire alarm control panel should be checked every 6 months by a British Standards qualified engineer and a log of these inspections should be retained. You should also ask your tenants to check individual alarms every week and to notify you immediately of any fault lights on the control panel.
All kitchens, bathrooms and toilets must have adequate lighting. This can either be natural or artificial lighting.
All kitchens, bathrooms and toilets must have a window. If it is impossible to provide a window you must provide a fan.
For every 5 people living in a HMO you must provide:
- a bathroom or shower room containing a wash hand basin,
- a separate toilet.
If it is impossible to provide a wash hand basin in the bathroom or shower room you must provide a wash hand basin in every bedroom.
The type of cooking facilities you must provide depends on the number of people living in the property.
If less than five people live in the accommodation you must provide a cooking appliance with:
- four rings or hotplates,
- a grill,
- an oven.
If between six and ten people live in the property you have to provide two cooking appliances. A shared kitchen should not contain more than two cookers.
In addition to complying standards relating to the physical condition and amenities supplied within a HMO, legislation also requires that you adhere to certain duties in managing the property. These duties are contained in the Housing (Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993. The Housing Executive has issued a Good Practice Guide for landlords of HMOs. This guide covers the following topics
- provision of information to tenants
- record keeping
- anti-social behaviour
- provision of rubbish bins and disposal of litter
- complaints procedure.
Penalties for non-compliance
If your property does not meet the standards required of a HMO the Housing Executive has certain powers which it can exercise.
The Housing Executive has the power to enter a property for the purposes of investigating whether it meets HMO standards and can serve a Statutory Notice on you requiring you to carry out certain repairs. This notice should specify the works that you are required to carry out to meet the standard. If you fail to comply with a Statutory Notice the Housing Executive can take action through the courts which may result in your being fined.
If you have been served with a Statutory Notice you should check if there are any grants available to assist you in bringing the property up to standard. You will be expected to make some contribution towards the cost of the work, even if grant aid is available,
If you fail to comply with the HMO Registration Scheme or contravene any provision of the scheme, you could be found guilty of an offence. The maximum fine for failing to comply with the registration scheme is £20,000.