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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Sharing your accommodation

This page only contains basic information and is the English version of our translated content.  For more detailed advice and information on housing in Northern Ireland in the English language, use the menu options on the homepage. 

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are properties shared by tenants who aren't members of the same family. If you live in a HMO, you may have extra rights.

What is a HMO?

If you share your accommodation with at least two other people who aren't members of your family, you may live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Family members are immediate relations including mother, father or sibling and extended relations including a grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.

If you live under the same roof as your immediate or extended family members, it is likely that you don't live in a house in multiple occupation.

You could be living in a HMO if you live in a:

  • flat,
  • lodging,
  • bedsit,
  • shared house,
  • student hostel,
  • university hall of residence,
  • care home,
  • bed and breakfast accommodation.

It is not always easy to work out whether you live in a HMO, as the rules for this area of law are complicated. If you're not sure whether you live in a HMO, contact a local advice agency.

HMO standards

A HMO property must meet certain standards for safety, sanitary conditions and overcrowding, even if it is privately owned and not registered with the Housing Executive.

Your landlord has a duty to carry out extra precautions and ensure that the building:

  • has adequate fire prevention and fire escape provisions,
  • has sufficient facilities in the kitchen (i.e. cooking appliances) for the number of occupants,
  • has an adequate number of toilets, baths, showers and wash-hand basins for the number of occupants,
  • has adequate lighting and windows/fans in all kitchens, bathrooms and toilets,
  • is not overcrowded.

Complaining about my HMO

If you live in a HMO that isn't up to standard, or you are not sure if it is, you can complain to your local Housing Executive District Office.

If you complain, the Housing Executive will investigate your property. If it decides that your landlord hasn't taken the proper precautions, the Housing Executive can take legal action to ensure that the landlord fulfills his/her duty and the property meets these standards.

You can also complain to the Environmental Health Department of your local council if your home is damaging your health or you're unhappy about the fire safety.

Overcrowding

If you live in a HMO, there are regulations about how many people can live in a property.

Overcrowding will occur if:

  • two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room, unless they are married or a cohabiting couple, or children under 12,
  • the number of people of the same sex sleeping in one room is disproportionate to the size of that room,
  • the number of people living in the property is disproportionate to the number of suitable rooms.

Space and room standards are often complicated to calculate, so if you believe you are living in overcrowded conditions get in touch with your local advice agency as soon as possible.

In certain circumstances overcrowding may be allowed, for instance if it is:

  • a result of a natural growth, such as a child reaching age,
  • temporary, such as someone coming to live in a household for a short period of time.

The Housing Executive can investigate your accommodation to ensure that you are not living in overcrowded conditions. The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give housing advice and information on preventing homelessness to anyone who asks in Northern Ireland.