Definition of ‘single household’?

Definition of ‘single household’?

9:07 AM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago 35

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The head lease on a 2-bedroom flat that I rent out says: ‘Not to use or suffer to be used the Demised Premises for any purpose whatsoever other than as a private residence for occupation by a single household . . . ‘ Due to problem with some lettings, particularly those involving students, the management company are saying that they will now enforce this clause, meaning that no flat can be occupied by two or more ‘friends’.

This makes letting a 2-bedroom flat in an area where the overseas student market is the primary one somewhat problematical because I could presumably let only to a couple (whether married or not) or to two people who are related.

What is the definition of a single household in relation to a lease?

Many thanks



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Neil Patterson

9:21 AM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

Hi Alan,

I can only find a specific definition of 'a household' not a 'single household' on .Gov >>


In general we use the National Statistics harmonised survey definition of a household, which is:

One person or a group of people who have the accommodation as their only or main residence AND (for a group)

either share at least one meal a day, or
share the living accommodation, that is, a living room or sitting room."

But I had assumed a single household to mean one group of related people or partners.

Alan Bromley

9:47 AM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

Thanks Neil. I'd be interested to hear how other members have addressed this issue. My letting agent believes that it is unenforceable without a clear legal definition. He mentioned something about the Housing Act but the lease does not refer to this.

I found this legal definition of 'household' online: "Individuals who comprise a family unit and who live together under the same roof; individuals who dwell in the same place and comprise a family, sometimes encompassing domestic help; all those who are under the control of one domestic head." This does not preclude 'friends' being a household.

Yvonne Francis

17:04 PM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

I think this clause is possibly in your lease to protect your landlord from their property forming a HMO and needing a license. HMO licencing came in 2004, and gradually extended to many areas and even flats to three or more 'unrelated' tenants. If you are in such an area and you put in three unrelated tenants it would be the landlord and not you who would be liable for licensing and all the difficulties which could go with that.

I don't think your agent is right about lack of definition. The definition is in the link posted by Neil. However I think they are right in it being unenforceable and certainly arguable because it is very woolly. If you put in international students and restrict to two if the flat could be liable for HMO licensing and they know each other and share facilities I don't think you have that much to worry about and as long as they can't sublet of course.

Ross Tulloch

17:22 PM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

I think Neil is right. We have had a serious issue with this in one of our properties. Key is that they are on one tenancy agreement with joint and several liability and are a unit or set of people who come together.

I think as has been suggested it would be quite hard for them to take this too far without realising that they may well lose

Mark Shine

19:00 PM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

Camden Council’s take on the definition of ‘household’ in relation to HMOs:

“A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is defined as a property occupied by three or more persons (including children) who form more than one household.
A household may be a single person or several members of the same family. For example:
a) a house occupied by a brother, sister and one other unrelated occupant would form two households;
b) three unrelated persons would form three households
The tenancy agreement is not relevant in determining if a house is an HMO. Nor is the size of the property (e.g. the number of storeys).”

So if a married couple and their best friend who have known each other since primary school and who now all work together in a business they started 5 years ago, having eaten three meals a day together for as long.... decide to rent a 2 bedroom flat with a separate lounge on one ‘joint and several’ AST…

Then they are TWO ‘housesholds’ and this 2 bed flat is now a licensable HMO and will probably cause problems from the flat owner’s BTL mortgage lender as this council informs the lender.

Please could anyone advise if this is incorrect? I truly wish it was!

Heather G.

19:28 PM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Shine" at "20/06/2017 - 19:00":

Mark, this was what I was told about my mortgage T&Cs which caused all sorts of problems as we'd bought a 3 bed near the hospital for sharers (but fewer than 5 so not a HMO), but I don't know anything about leases. Alan, perhaps check what your council defines as a Household and use that if you can to promote your point.

Alan Bromley

22:33 PM, 20th June 2017, About 7 years ago

Many thanks for all the comments. I have no legal training but it seems to me that the definition of a 'household', if not defined in the head lease for my flat, must rely on some legal definition that is either set down in statute or has been established in court. It can't be decided on the basis of how local authorities define the term in relation to its own HMO rules (which vary between authorities). In those instances, by defining it they have only set the boundaries in relation to HMO licensing in their own boroughs. This surely has no bearing on the definition of 'household' in relation to the lease on a flat, even if the flat is in a borough where the local authority has created its own definition of 'household'. The matter has nothing to do with the local authority unless it comes under the HMO rules, which my flat with its two bedrooms doesn't.

Some of the comments seem to support my letting agent's view that the matter is unenforceable, or at the very least would be expensive and risky for the freeholder, but I would very much like to hear if anyone has been taken to court over such a issue as this.

Yvonne Francis

11:04 AM, 21st June 2017, About 7 years ago

Alan, I don't know why you are so baffled by the word 'household'. Why not ask the landlord if you are that unsure? Twenty five years ago I fought my council through the courts when they accused me of being a HMO and I defended myself on claiming to be a single household. Single household was then and still to some extent woolly. I won that time but by 2004 the definition of a HMO was 'unrelated persons' which made things clearer although I fell into that category. So Mark, Camden is unfortunately correct.

I bought the HMO issue into the argument as a suggestion because the HMO directive is spreading like a virus everywhere and even if your flat is no where near the councils infected area, lots of landlords fear sooner or later it may be them. Keeping within the boundaries of not being considered a HMO would I thought, be very important.

My daughter with two other professional friends tried to rent a four bed house in London. They were turned down in favour of a family because the landlord feared they would put a fourth person (although they had no intention to do so) in the extra bedroom. In that part of London at that time the limit was four or over.

William Frost

14:27 PM, 21st June 2017, About 7 years ago

There are multiple definitions. The most important definition is perhaps that specified in the lease. See also the Housing Act 2004. See clause 258 "HMOs: persons not forming a single household" for a quite precise definition: (1)This section sets out when persons are to be regarded as not forming a single household for the purposes of section 254.

(2)Persons are to be regarded as not forming a single household unless—

(a)they are all members of the same family, or

(b)their circumstances are circumstances of a description specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the appropriate national authority.

(3)For the purposes of subsection (2)(a) a person is a member of the same family as another person if—

(a)those persons are married to each other or live together as husband and wife (or in an equivalent relationship in the case of persons of the same sex);

(b)one of them is a relative of the other; or

(c)one of them is, or is a relative of, one member of a couple and the other is a relative of the other member of the couple.

(4)For those purposes—

(a)a “couple” means two persons who are married to each other or otherwise fall within subsection (3)(a);

(b)“relative” means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin;

(c)a relationship of the half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood; and

(d)the stepchild of a person shall be treated as his child.

(5)Regulations under subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, secure that a group of persons are to be regarded as forming a single household only where (as the regulations may require) each member of the group has a prescribed relationship, or at least one of a number of prescribed relationships, to any one or more of the others.

(6)In subsection (5) “prescribed relationship” means any relationship of a description specified in the regulations."

Mark Shine

20:59 PM, 21st June 2017, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvonne Francis" at "21/06/2017 - 11:04":

Thanks Yvonne for confirming what I suspected. When I first saw this thread a part of me desperately (perhaps irrationally) wished ?that Camden Council had somehow got it wrong!

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