HMO licensing

Your questions answered

This page was last updated: 2 June 2020

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HMO Licence issues:

What is an HMO?

“HMO” stands for “House in Multiple Occupation.”  It is defined as being a house where two or more unrelated households share amenities. It includes what people call bedsits.

The property is an HMO if it is tenanted by 3 or more unrelated persons forming two or more households and sharing basic amenities. Note that a group of friends is not regarded as a household, as they are not related; basic amenities are defined as a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities.

Do all HMOs need a licence?

Yes.  In Coventry, Additional licensing of HMOs has been introduced so currently all HMOs need a licence. If they comprise three or more people or are flats provided without Building Regulations these are included in Additional licensing.  An HMO with five or more people would need a Mandatory licence.

If you would like an officer to inspect your property to determine whether it is licensable and whether any works are required to bring it up to HMO standard, you can pay for a pre-licensing advice visit.

Is this the case across the UK?

In England and Wales, all HMOs that comprise five or more people require a licence. For local schemes, check with the relevant local authority about whether there are any discretionary licensing schemes in place. 

What if my HMO doesn’t take up the whole building?

The HMO regulations look at the whole building, not just the portion being used as a domestic property.  So if, for example, your HMO is a duplex flat above a food business, it would require a licence if there were three or more people living there.

How do I apply for an HMO Licence?

You’ve come to the right place! Please see the Licensing Process page to access the on-line application form. Please note that we are not able to provide paper copies for you.

How much does it cost?

Please see the Fees and Charges page for full details of our fees and charges.  The Stage 1 fee, which is payable upon submission of your application, is £450.  The Stage 2 fee, which is payable when we issue the draft licence, is variable depending upon the length of your licence

We can only charge what it costs us to process the licensing application and run/ enforce the scheme; we do not make any profit from it.

How long does the application process take?

That depends on how many people are ahead of you in the queue, and how complete your application is. We will always process complete applications as quickly as possible.

One question that is frequently skipped is information about the house’s mortgage provider. If you have a mortgage on your house, we need to write to your mortgage provider as part of the application process, so it’s important that you provide their address. Please ensure your application is accurate and complete for any queries please email [email protected].

Once we have all the necessary information, have performed all the mandated checks, and the fee has been paid, we will issue a Draft Licence to you and to anyone else with a legal involvement in the property.  You will then have twenty-one days to let us know if you have any objections to the terms of the Draft.  If we receive no objections, we will then issue the Full Licence.

How long does an HMO licence last?

Under most circumstances, we will issue you a licence for five years.  If it comes to our attention that you have been operating a house without a licence for a significant period of time, we may reduce the length of your initial licence to compensate. If you do not meet the criteria for a five-year licence then you may receive a licence of a shorter length.  Please see the Length of Licence page for more details.

Are HMO licences transferable?

No.  If you buy a house which has a current HMO licence, that licence will cease to be valid once you take ownership, so you will need to submit a new application as soon as possible.

Are HMO licences refundable?

Under most circumstances, no.  We realise that if you sell your house one year after your licence is granted, you’ve only benefitted from it for twenty per cent of its duration, but we’ve done a hundred per cent of the work processing your application and issuing the licence and the licence fee covers the cost of that work.

Do I need Planning Permission to operate an HMO?

If you wish to convert a normal house to an HMO with seven or more lets or add a seventh or greater let to an existing HMO, you will need to apply for planning permission. If you have any doubts about whether planning permission is needed or not, please contact our planning team at [email protected] or consult the Planning Portal website.

Are there any Article 4 restrictions in Coventry?

Article 4 is a general prohibition on a particular type of planning activity.  There are some Article 4 designations in Coventry, but none of these has any direct bearing on HMOs.  More information can be found on the online map on the Planning Team's webpages.

What do you mean by “Manager”?

A manager is a person or company, such as a letting agent, who manages the day to day running of your HMO.  They may undertake any or all of the following duties: dealing with contracts, collecting rent, being the first point of contact for repairs, or otherwise administering the house and dealing with tenants.  If you employ a manager, it is important that you include their details in the application paperwork.

Note that if you employ a manager, it is still your legal responsibility to ensure that the house is operated correctly and lawfully.

Do I have to employ a manager?

No, you can perform these duties yourself.  However, if the Council determines that you will struggle to perform these duties in a timely manner (for example, if you live overseas and may not be able to come to the house quickly in the event of an emergency) we may make it a condition that you employ a local manager.

Can you recommend a manager/letting agent?

Coventry City Council is not able recommend third party businesses.  However, you can view agencies that have been accredited by us on the CLAS webpages.

Do I need to notify you if there are any changes to the property?

You should notify us if you move house, change manager, if your manager changes address, or if you change mortgage provider.  You should also notify us if you wish to change the maximum number of tenants and/or households in your HMO, or otherwise alter the amenities, as we may need to issue a Licence Variation.

Is there any charge for a Licence Variation or a Temporary Exemption Notice?

No.  You may vary the details on a licence for without charge. You may also apply to exempt your property from licensing for 3 months without charge.  You can apply for a TEN using the online application form.

What are the consequences of operating a licensable HMO without a licence?

You could face an unlimited fine, be prohibited from operating rented properties in Coventry, and be placed on a nationwide database of rogue landlords.

Do you operate a Landlord Accreditation Scheme?

Yes.  the Coventry Landlord Accreditation Scheme (CLAS)  is a free, voluntary scheme that private residential Landlords and Letting Agents are encouraged to join. 

Do you have a list of HMOs in Coventry?

We have public registers of licensed HMOs and pending licence applications.

HMO Property condition requirements:

What standards does the HMO need to meet?

We have two documents that go into the necessary standards in depth: Homestamp, which details fire safety standards, and our Room Size and Amenity Provision Standards. Both documents are available in our advice library

I’m in the process of setting up an HMO – can an officer come round to check that I’m doing everything right?

We are not able to offer any general advice on HMO legislation beyond that contained on this website.  If you are considering converting a property into an HMO, and you would like us to visit your property to advise you on the HMO licensing requirements before you apply, you can request a pre-licensing inspection.  There is a charge  for this service. Please note that we are not able to physically inspect properties during the coronavirus lockdown.

Do I need to display the licence in the house?

Yes, the front page of the licence needs to be displayed clearly in a suitable communal area alongside other management information.  The other pages of the licence (Schedules 1 & 2) do not need to be displayed, but they must be easily available to tenants.  For example, you could give a copy to each tenant with their tenancy agreement or keep a copy in a “useful documents” folder in a communal area.

Where can I get further information on HMOs?

The Government’s web pages contain a wide range of useful information.

If you have specific questions about fire safety, you can contact the fire service at [email protected]

If you have any general HMO questions that have not already been answered by this document, you can e-mail [email protected] or phone 024 7697 5467 during office hours. If you have a technical question about fire safety or amenity provision, please check to see whether it is answered in the Homestamp or Room Size and Amenity Provision Standards documents first.

Is a fire risk assessment compulsory? Who can conduct it?

Yes - for a licensable HMO it is a legal requirement to have a Fire Risk Assessment. A competent person can conduct the fire risk assessment and it must be reviewed on an annual basis. More information can be found on our Fire Risk Assessment page.

What legal requirement must be met for non-mandatory licensable HMOs?

Please note that currently, all HMOs in Coventry are licensable.

All HMOs, regardless of licensability, are subject to:

Do I have to display my details in the HMO?

The management details are required to be displayed within an obvious part of the HMO. Just inside the front door is a good place.

Is emergency lighting compulsory in all licensable HMOs?

Emergency lighting is normally required for the larger higher risk HMOs, typically where they comprise three or more storeys. It could also be required where there are 6 or more occupants in a three storey HMO and in other HMOs where appropriate – it is dependent upon the risk and whether the layout of the building is such that the escape route is complicated or does not have sufficient borrowed light.

Are hardwired smoke detectors with battery back-up compulsory in all HMOs?

Yes – mains wired interlinked detectors are a legal requirement for all HMOs. Battery smoke detectors are not suitable.

Is an electrical certificate mandatory for all HMOs?

Yes – five yearly periodic testing of the electrical system is a legal requirement for HMOs.  From July 2020, a five-yearly electrical safety certificate will be required for all privately rented properties, regardless of HMO status. 

Who is responsible for cleaning the HMO and maintaining the gardens?

You are responsible, you can do this through an agreement with the tenants. However, if the property is not cleaned or the garden not-maintained, you will need to take steps to remedy the situation.

My certs are out of date – can I still apply for a licence (COVID-19 outbreak)?

With regards to the additional licensing, applications should still be made from 4 May 2020.

The licensing of these additional HMOs does not require any extra works to be carried out to these properties as measures (e.g. fire detection) should already be in place – they have always been HMOs, just not licensable. However, we appreciate that landlords will not be able to enter properties to obtain renewal certificates at this time. If certificates have lapsed, please provide the most recent copy you have available. If you have no copies of a given certificate, please upload a Word document explaining the reasons why. There will be a requirement to supply a new certificate about 3 months after the restrictions have been lifted.

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