Don’t be afraid of Houses in Multiple Occupation

Don’t be afraid of Houses in Multiple Occupation

12:54 PM, 14th November 2012, About 12 years ago 9

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Experienced landlord Angus Ryan explains why landlords should not be afraid to invest in HMOs and also inform their local council if they are operating a House in Multiple Occupation.

Indeed he has found that they are very helpful and want to help landlords improve housing standards for tenants. In this article he also tells of his experience of several of his HMOs. This is just one tip featured in his newly acclaimed book “Top 21 Worst Mistakes made by Property Landlords and How to Avoid Them”.

As well as licensable HMOs (which are usually 3 storey properties with 5 or more tenants) there are non-licensable HMOs which councils are equally interested in but they do not require so much paperwork.  HMOs can be very lucrative and to avoid having to get a license I have deliberately bought properties with only two floors and five tenants.

The benefits of letting on a Multi Occupancy basis?

  1. Higher return on your investment.
  2. Rental yield can be as high as 75% greater than single tenancy occupancy.
  3. Less Risk. Rental income is paid by individual tenants not reliant on just one ‘breadwinner’
  4. Less void periods. Multi Occupancy properties run at about 90% through the year.
  5. More control over your property. Landlord has access to property at all times.

There is strong demand for this type of accommodation which will continue into the foreseeable future.

There is a general wide definition of the regulations which state that the following are HMOs:

  • Properties (Flats or houses) inhabited by 3 or more people who are not a household and share kitchen and bathroom facilities. A household is defined as parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins.
  • Student accommodation during term time
  • A building converted into flats pre June 1992 which does not comply with the Building Regulations 1991, has not been subsequently up-dated to the relevant fire safety standard and where a third or more of the properties are rented on short term tenancies.

The landlord may not have to carry out any action to ensure compliance. However you need to have an electrical inspection carried out every five years. The above properties like all private dwellings must comply with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”) which is the new statistical means of measuring hazards and risk of injury at a property. This system applies to all properties but those falling into the above category are subject to inspection by the environmental health officer.

What extra responsibilities does the landlord of an HMO have?

The landlord’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that:

  • proper fire safety measures are in place
  • the property is not overcrowded
  • there are adequate cooking and washing facilities
  • communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in good repair
  • There are enough rubbish bins.

The fire safety measures would normally include proper means of escape from the property in case of fire. This may include half hour resistant fire doors and a fire alarm and detection system which will usually be a lower specification than for Licensed HMOs. As the landlord of the property you are required to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out by a competent person. Your local Environmental Housing Officer can be contacted to give you appropriate guidance.

Check with your local council as sometimes grants are available to help you improve standards for fire safety, amenity and energy efficiency work.

An inspector will arrange to come round to your property and assess what you need to do to get it up to the decent homes standard and HHSRS. Don’t be frightened by this as you may be entitled to a HMO renovation grant including up to £1,000 for energy efficiency work. In my area grants can be given for 60% for fire work such as an alarm system and fire doors and 40% for amenities such as a new sink.

The proportion of the improvements that you pay for can be offset against your rental income. Ignoring requests to get your Licensable HMO up to the required standards can land you in big trouble. There are enforcement procedures and you can be taken to court and fined up to £20,000 and the tenants can apply to the court to reclaim their rent from you (rent repayment order) whilst the property is not Licensable. So be warned! Unless your Licensable HMO is licensed then any Section 21 notice will be invalid and you will not be able to evict a tenant.

I had a licensable HMO and I invited the Council to assess the property and they wanted me to extend one of the bedrooms as it did not comply with the minimum personal space requirements which were 90 sq ft for a single room and 110 sq ft for a double. This room also housed the hot water tank and boiler controls.

HMO’s include communal areas with furnishings. Any electrical appliances will need Portable Appliance Testing which usually costs £10 per item e.g. TV, Kettle, Microwave, washing machine. National Landlord Association does courses for PAT so you can learn and do it yourself! Any soft furnishings will need to be fireproof and have the kite mark. Items need to be tested regularly e.g. at least once every two years.

Unless you have a Digital thermostat controller which you can lock then I would recommend padlocks on the boiler controls so that the heating is not on 24 hours a day. The hot water is available all the time but heating is usually on for about 8 hours a day extended to up to 12 hours per day in winter. The rent for HMO’s is all inclusive. This includes all bills, gas, electric, water, council tax, internet, TV licence (except their individual room).

Broadband is a must to attract tenants in an HMO. The phone line rental plus broadband costs about £20 per month. HMO’s require more intensive management as more tenants move in and out and more things can go wrong. I employ trustworthy cleaners and gardeners and pay them £11-12 per hour to keep the communal areas clean and the garden lawns cut and free of weeds. They also report back to me if anything is wrong or needs maintenance.

I would highly recommend buying an HMO to add to your portfolio. It accounts for a large portion of my profit every month and if they are run efficiently they are very lucrative. I think this type of housing will become even more popular in the future and you could create a great income by just running an HMO business in your local town/city. It is a no brainer for tenants to live in furnished accommodation with no bills to pay and the chance to meet new friends and being close to amenities.

It is worth noting that Local Authorities have the powers to extend licensing to HMOs with fewer than three levels or five tenants if they think there is a need e.g. anti social behavior in a local area. To find out if your HMO may be in an area where extended licensing is being applied then contacts your council’s Private Sector Housing Officer or Environmental Health Department.

Remember even if your HMO is not licensable you will still need to install a fire safety system and fire doors. Check with LACORS/DASH for guidance and your local council and fire service.

This is just one tip but the great news is that you can benefit from a further 20 Top Tips by checking out This book shows you how to avoid the biggest blunders and includes a special property tax saving factsheet. This is amazing value so hurry and pick up your copy now.

Enjoy the book, Angus Ryan


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16:48 PM, 14th November 2012, About 12 years ago

Great article Angus! It's true that demand for shared living has grown significantly in recent years, and shows no sign of abating. Many professionals are sharing for longer, as they're finding it almost impossible to save for a deposit for their own place these days.

In terms of bills, it's not essential to include them in the rent, but we've found most tenants do like the all inclusive amounts (94% according to a spareroom survey). Most landlords tend to quote rents inclusive of bills but some will leave the utilities to the tenants to sort out between them.

We've put together a free guide to HMOs and licensing, drawn up with the help of a local authority housing officer. It's available to download at:

17:13 PM, 15th November 2012, About 12 years ago

hi Angus, i'm sorry to say that my experience dealing with LA is turning into a nightmare.
the H and S work they have deemed necessary is not even on the statute books. but they will not issue a license without the work being done. I call this blackmail.

just one of the jobs I've been instructed to do is;

" certify sounder alarms give greater than 75dB of sound at the headboard end of every bed. "

So on Tuesday I get a chap, pay him £400 to test all sounders at headboard end and everything is tickatybo.

on Thursday a tenant moves his bed to another part of the room. the test may now fail.

who is responsible ? me of course. the tenant is allowed to move the bed. I'm not allowed to tell him otherwise.

heads I loose, tails I'm in trouble.

HMOs are not worth the little extra money. as it all goes on
" LETTERBOX FLAP ANNUAL TEST " ( not required by law but may be required by a Local Authority near you )
" ANNUAL PAT TEST LOG " ( not required by law but may be required by a Local Authority near you )
etc, etc,,,,, the list grows every time they turn up to inspect the property. and if you don't comply... .what is that smell ????????????

however, shared accommodation is different. An individual with a home of his own wishing to rent out a spare room does not have these problems. it is even encouraged by the inland revenue and with the economy the way it is people are renting out rooms just to pay the bills.

17:56 PM, 15th November 2012, About 12 years ago

I would advise checking carefully with the relevant council in an area AND local landlords before you invest in an HiMO. The approach of different councils can be startlingly different. For example I would personally not advise anyone to touch Milton Keynes at present - especially if they are not experienced in this field. Liverpool on the other hand....

Oh, and yes I do have HMO's in both towns so I know what I'm talking about.

22:10 PM, 15th November 2012, About 12 years ago

Great article Angus.

Sorry don't agree Cosmos. All we are talking about is a tick list. Comply with the councils requirements (even the silly ones) and you have a great turbo charged recurring income. My last 6 en suite property generates £1,500 net pcm. I have a 16 mile round trip to do the weekly tests which gives me an opportunity to make sure all is as it should be.

I get on well with my HMO officer. She is quite 'normal' and doesn't go overboard with regulations. (75dB of sound at the headboard end of every bed - you are kidding - right??) . - we help each other out. Unlucky if your officer is a plonker 🙁

Bills MUST be all inclusive if you want a sane life!!

I teach people how to Rent to Rent - it boosted my income by £5k net pcm in just 6 months.
I have a tongue in cheek guide you can display in your Multi-Lets to encourage a harmonious living environment for tenants:

23:14 PM, 15th November 2012, About 12 years ago

How do you get your picture up! I am fairly techno illiterate 🙁

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

0:14 AM, 16th November 2012, About 12 years ago

Go to the discussions tab on the main navigation bar on any page you are looking at and there is a drop down called "how to leave comments" which explains all. The simple explanation is that if you have a social media account (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Disqus, Wordpress or Linkedin) click on the relevant icon when you have left a comment and follow the instructions. SIMPLES!

14:21 PM, 17th November 2012, About 12 years ago

hi Francis, sadly I'm not kidding with the 75dB noise level.

I have a H and S specialist, he regularly checks all my properties for anything to do with fire safety, escape routes and where to congregate in case of a fire, all the signs, i have a firm that checks the fire extinguishers annually, and they are both flummuxed by this new rule.

and to make matters worse still, the equipment used to carry out the noise level test must have a calibration certificate. which you may consider an obvious requirement. But there is a slight hitch.

Noise level meters are self calibrating. there is no certificate to be had, and there nobody to test them.

A company called Tektronix Instruments Inc, world famous for spectrum analysers, oscilloscopes and other hi-tech electronic test equipment developed a chunk of electronics and software that allowed such equipment to test itself way back in the late 70s. just press the auto-test button and the test equipment tested itself. this technology has permeated down into everything. your TV, fax, PC, laptop, car, gas boilers, fire alarm panels and noise level meters.

in fact this piece of technology has improved considerately to the point that stuff monitors itself,
and thus flags up a fault alarm if a fault develops.

now try telling that to the fire department and your local council inspectors that insists on you testing your fire panel very week.

14:51 PM, 17th November 2012, About 12 years ago

hi Angus, A little word of warning; keep your exit close to the surface.

what I have found is, as you ensconce yourself in HMOs because they look profitable, along comes a spider in the shape of the L A and they start requesting a few mods. just a few to start with. little things that don't cost too much but changes the profile of the house to a point that it becomes unsellable to anyone but a developer, so you would loose far too much money if you sold it.

So you have to carry on. ALL YOU SEE IS THE PROFIT

then it's more changes. quite alot more. quite costly but it is still profitable.

then it becomes a nightmare and it's not a matter of you not being able to afford the's an issue with your tenants.


a chap called Carl Marx put it like this; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Runju Rahman

0:07 AM, 29th July 2016, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by " " at "15/11/2012 - 17:56":

Hi Nikki,
I know this post is a couple of years old but can you please explain why u advise not touch Milton Keynes and Liverpool even though u have HMOs there?


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