The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new definition of what constitutes a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

An HMO is:

  • An entire house or flat which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. (Persons do not form a single household unless they are members of the same family or they form a prescribed relationship defined by regulations.) A household refers to:
    • families, including single people, couples and same sex couples
    • other relationships, such as fostering, carers and domestic staff.
  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and fit the above criteria.
  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained and is occupied by 3 or more tenants forming 2 or more households.
  • A building which is converted entirely into self-contained flats if the conversion did not meet the standards of the 1991 Building Regulations and more than 1/3 of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.
  • The property must be the tenants' only or main residence and should be used solely or mainly to house tenants. Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their only or main residence, and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges. 

For live in landlords, please see the letting rooms in your home guide.


There are exemptions from the definition of an HMO and these include:

  • Any building occupied only by two persons who form two households
  • Buildings occupied by a resident landlord with up to two tenants
  • Managed or owned by a public body (such as the police or the NHS) or an LHA or a Registered Social Landlord
  • Residential accommodation which is ancillary to the principal use of a building, for example religious establishments and conference centres
  • Student halls of residence, where the education establishment has signed up to an Approved Code of Practice
  • HMOs regulated by other legislation e.g. children and care homes, boarding schools, prisons, bail and probation hostels etc.

For more information, see the HMO government information

The Housing Standards Team is responsible for inspecting and enforcing housing standards in licensed and non-licensed HMOs. We have legal powers to improve standards in HMOs.

From 1 October 2018 any building with five or more unrelated occupants over any number of storeys requires a licence to operate as an HMO.  If you wish to make an electronic application or view our Register of Licenced HMO's please visit the licensing for houses in multiple occupation web page.  Chichester District Council does not run selective or additional licensing schemes.

Houses in multiple Occupation and planning permission

Residential properties would normally fall within use class 'C3 Dwellinghouses', however the occupation of a residential property by 3 to 6 unrelated people may trigger the need for planning permission because they would be classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and fall within Use Class C4.

In planning terms there are two different types of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Where between 3 and 6 unrelated people live in a dwelling and share amenities the property are classed as a C4 use (small HMO). Buildings containing bedsits, with some communal space, accommodating 3 to 6 unrelated people are also classified as Class C4. Larger HMOs are typically defined as having more than 6 unrelated people sharing amenities and are not classified by the Use Classes Order. For planning purposes these HMOs would be regarded as having a 'Sui Generis Use' (meaning they do not fit comfortably into a standard use class) and therefore planning permission is required prior to a building's occupation as such.

As such planning permission would be required for a change from a C3 use to a C4 use as outlined above. If you require clarification about whether the a proposed use would require planning permission, the Councils Planning Department provide a formal and informal advice service.

Guidance for Managing Houses in Multiple Occupation


Please contact us for further details about HMO standards or to discuss the financial assistance available to landlords.