Birmingham City Council

HMO Licensing

Overview

If you are a landlord and you own a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you may need a HMO licence. A HMO is a building or a part of a building (such as a flat) that is occupied by more than two persons living as more than one household.
Not all HMOs need to be licensed – see frequently asked questions below.

To apply for a new HMO Licence, or to renew an existing HMO Licence, please complete our application form and the relevant 'How much do I pay?' table, attached below. A full list of FAQs, as well as helpful leaflets and links, can also be found further down this page.

To protect tenants in HMOs from poor conditions, the government regulates:

  • the quality of the accommodation
  • that you or your representatives are suitable to manage a HMO
  • that you do not have too many people living in your HMO
  • that HMOs considered high-risk are monitored.

The HMO licensing team deals with all aspects of HMO licensing such as:

  • helping you through the application process
  • assisting with any events after your licence is issued, for example if you wish to vary the terms and conditions of the licence to increase the permitted number of tenants, or to change the people names on the original application
  • helping you to renew your licence when the old one is due to expire.

You can find full details about licensing, relicensing and fees, as well as a wealth of helpful advice below. For further information, visit the central government HMO licensing page.

You can also apply online at the Business Link website.

Our licensing fees were updated in April 2013, see the attachment below.

Please get in touch if you have any queries - HMO Licensing Team, 0121 303 4009.

In partnership with EUGO - find out more.

Essential Information
  • If you are a landlord, or thinking of becoming a landlord and need to get a HMO licence, you will need complete a licence application form with which you must provide:

    • the appropriate licence fee (see FAQs below for more details)
    • a floor plan of the property indicating room sizes, location of the bathroom, toilet and kitchen facilities plus the position of any smoke alarms, emergency lighting units and fire doors
    • a valid, current gas safety certificate for the HMO which must be renewed annually (if the property has a gas supply). This is an absolute essential if the property has a gas supply and any licence application received that does not include a current gas safety certificate will not be regarded as being valid. Continued failure to provide an appropriate gas safety certificate within 14 days of a reasonable request to do so may result either in legal proceedings for failure to make a valid licence application or refusal to grant a licence. Furthermore the case may be referred to the Health and Safety Executive for any action considered necessary under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
    • A valid electrical test certificate to prove the safety of the electrical installation. If you do not currently have an electrical test certificate, you will be asked to supply one within a specified period of time as a condition of the licence
    • A portable appliance test certificate with respect to any electrical equipment you supply as part of the tenancy. If you do not currently have a portable appliance test certificate, you will be asked to supply one within a specified period of time as a condition of the licence
    • A declaration that all supplied upholstered furniture complies to the 1993 amendments to The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 which extends the scope of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA). To comply with the regulations, your furniture must:
    • carry a manufacturer’s label which must be permanent and non-detachable
    • have fire resistant filling material
    • pass the ‘match resistance test’ as prescribed
    • pass the ‘cigarette test’ as prescribed.

    The following items of furniture would be covered by the above:

    • armchairs, three-piece suites, sofas, sofa beds, futons and other convertible furniture
    • beds, bed bases and headboards, mattresses, divans and pillows
    • nursery furniture
    • garden furniture which could be used indoors
    • loose, stretch and fitted covers for furniture, scatter cushions, seat pads and pillows.

    A Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations can be found at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website.

    • Details of what fire precautions currently exist in the property. This would include the location of any existing fire doors and smoke alarms. If your property does not comply with required standards you will be required to install additional fire safety measures as necessary within a specified period of time as a condition of the licence
    • A written statement for each occupier of the terms on which they occupy the property, for example, a tenancy agreement.
  • In some circumstances, we may also apply licence conditions that:

    • restrict the use or occupation of parts of the HMO
    • require you to take steps to deal with anti social behaviour arising from either the occupants or visitors if there are any reported problems
    • require you to improve the condition of the property and its contents, such as furniture, bathroom , toilet and kitchen facilities
    • require you to carry out works to make the house suitable for occupation by the intended maximum number of persons or households within a specified timeframe
    • require the licence holder or manager to attend an approved training course.
  • We aim to process valid applications up to the point of making a decision whether or not to grant a licence within eight weeks of receipt. The length of the application process will depend on a number of things, including whether we need to inspect the property to confirm it is suitable for licensing.

    For more information see the 'Service Standards - HMO Licensing' booklet attached below.

  • Private Rented Services
    PO Box 16589
    Birmingham
    B2 2JB

    Telephone: 0121 303 4009
    Email: prs@birmingham.gov.uk

Frequently Asked Questions
    • Under the changes in the Housing Act 2004, if you let a property which is one of the following types, it is a House in Multiple Occupation:

      • 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
      • a house which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other non-self-contained accommodation and which is let to 3 or more tenants who form 2 or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
      • a converted house which contains 1 or more flats which are not wholly self contained (ie. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by 3 or more tenants who form 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 one-third of the flats are let on short-term tenancies.

      In order to be a HMO the property must be used as the tenants only or main residence and it 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.

    • Under the national mandatory licensing scheme a HMO must be licensed if it has:

      • Three or more storeys, and
      • Five or more tenants in two or more households, and
      • Shared facilities such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet.

      The council has discretionary powers to widen the remit of licensing to include smaller HMO’s if we feel enough of them in an area are badly managed.

      • A single person living alone (without partners / relatives – three friends sharing would be considered as three households)
      • Couples – married, unmarried or in same-sex relationships
      • Relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children and step-children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins. Half-relatives and foster parents/children are treated as full relatives
      • Any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person who they are working for.
    • The licence can be granted for up to five years.

      In some cases the licence may not be granted for the full five years. For example if there are any concerns over the management of the property, or if there has been a history of problems of anti social behaviour associated with the property.

      Also, if you fail to make a timely application for a licence then the period of time that the property has been operating as a licensable HMO without a licence may be deducted from the maximum five year period. This is to ensure equity with those landlords who have made timely applications.


    • We aim to process effective applications, up to the point of making a decision whether or not to grant a licence, within eight weeks of receipt. The length of the application process will depend on a number of things, including whether we need to inspect the property to confirm it is suitable for licensing.

      Read the HMO Licensing Service Standards, attached below, for further information.



    • In the event of your licence application not being processed within the stated eight week period, then tacit approval is not automatically given.

      In the interest of public safety, each licence application must be given full consideration by Birmingham City Council before it can be approved. If you have not heard from us within eight weeks of your application, please contact the HMO Licensing Team (see contacts above).
      You can do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes Service or Businesslink.

    • There is no prescribed time limit in law, however you should be aware that it is an offence punishable by a fine of up to £20,000 for a person having control or managing a licensable HMO to do so without a licence, without reasonable excuse.

      The council’s policy on this is that the person responsible will be given adequate opportunity to apply for a licence before legal proceedings are instigated.

      In cases where it is found that there has been gross neglect of proper management standards resulting in the health and safety of the occupiers being put at serious risk, consideration may be given to instigating legal proceedings for failure to obtain a licence forthwith without having given any prior opportunities to apply.

      If you are a landlord who is considering letting a property as a HMO, it is advisable to contact the HMO Licensing Team before any tenants move in.

      If your property is already occupied as a licensable HMO and you do not currently have a licence for it, then again you are advised to contact the HMO Licensing Team without delay.

    • Either the landlord or someone they nominate, such as a manager or agent can hold the licence, provided that person is in agreement. The licence must be held by most appropriate "fit and proper" person. In determining whether a licence holder is “fit and proper”, we will consider:

      • Any previous convictions relating to violence, sexual offences, drugs and fraud.
      • Whether the proposed licence holder has broken any laws relating to housing or landlord and tenant issues.
      • Whether the person has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination.
      • Whether the person has previously managed HMOs that have broken any approved code of practice.

      It is advisable for the landlord or manager to be a member of a professionally recognised body, such as the Association of Midland Landlords, National Federation of Residential Landlords, or Residential Landlords Association.

      1. Amenities and room sizes

        In order to assess the suitability of a HMO for occupation by a particular number of persons or households, the council has produced a guidance document which sets out minimum required room sizes as well as minimum provision of toilet, bathroom and kitchen facilities depending on the type of property in question. It also contains standards relating to the provision of adequate heating and information about management regulations.

        The document can be read in full by opening “Standards for HMOs”, attached below.

      2. Fire precautions

        National guidance on fire safety in residential accommodation was formally launched by the government on 23 July 2008. The guidance applies nationally and covers certain existing residential accommodation including single family dwellings, shared houses, bedsits and flats. It is not aimed at new housing built to modern building regulations. The guidance adopts a risk-based approach to fire safety that will satisfy both the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It includes guidance to landlords on how to carry out a fire risk assessment. The guidance is equally relevant to landlords, managing agents, local councils and fire and rescue authorities. The guidance applies to both the private and social housing sectors. To download a PDF version of the guidance free of charge, please visit the LACORS (Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services) website www.lacors.gov.uk. Hard copies of the guidance are also available to purchase for £20 a copy with free postage and packing.

        The national guidance has been adopted and further developed by Homestamp, which is a consortium of local authorities, West Midlands Fire Service and other organisations concerned with standards in the private rented housing sector in the Midlands region.

        To download a free copy of the Homestamp guidance entitled “ A Guide to Fire and Security Protection in Multi-Occupied Residential Premises” please visit the Homestamp website www.homestamp.com. where you can also find out more about the partner organisations and other work of the consortium.

        The LACORS and Homestamp web sites can be accessed by clicking on the external links below.

    • Both the city council and WMFS have responsibility for ensuring satisfactory fire protection standards in residential properties. In particular the city council must consult with WMFS to agree a suitable fire protection scheme for every HMO licence that is granted.

      In order to clarify the respective roles of both authorities and to minimise duplication, a Joint Working Protocol has been produced which sets out the circumstances in which either authority will take the leading enforcement role.

      The document can be read in full by opening the "Joint Working Protocol", attached below.

    • Birmingham City Council's Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy relates predominantly to the Housing Act 2004 but also covers other housing legislation relating to the private rented sector. It sets out the circumstances whereby enforcement action, such as the service of a statutory notice or the prosecution of an individual, may be taken. It also sets out how the council will enforce the various stages and procedures involved in the licensing of HMOs.

      The document, which is in five parts, can be read in full on our Private Housing Enforcement Policy page.

    • A separate licence is needed for each property.

    • Failure to apply for a licence is a criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £20,000.

    • The council does not have to inspect the property before granting a licence but in some cases an inspection could be necessary. The licensing team will prioritise properties for inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, based on the potential hazards that your property poses. We will send you more information on this when your licence(s) has been issued. For information about this process read "Reducing the Risks", produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

    • Yes, if we decide you are not a fit and proper person or the property does not meet the conditions set out above, and there is no reasonable prospect of appointing an alternative licence holder or bringing the property up to standard within an acceptable time period.

      In this situation, the council has a duty to issue an Interim Management Order (IMO). This allows it to step in and manage the property, including collecting the rent. This order can last for a year, until suitable permanent arrangements can be made. If the IMO expires and there is no likelihood of a positive change in the circumstances, then the council can issue a Final Management Order. This removes the property from the control of the owner for a period of up to five years and can be renewed.


    • Where there is little or no prospect of the property being brought up to a licensable standard, or where the owner fails to provide a fit and proper person to manage the property, we have a duty to issue an interim management order (IMO). This allows the Local Housing Authority to step in and manage the property, including collecting the rent. This order can last up to a year, until suitable, permanent arrangements can be made.


      If the IMO expires and there is no likelihood of a positive change in the circumstances, we can issue a final management order. This removes the property from your control for up to five years and we can renew it if necessary.

    • You may appeal if the council decides to refuse your licence, grant a licence with additional conditions, revoke your licence, vary your licence or refuse to vary your licence. You must appeal to the Residential Property Tribunal, normally within 28 days.

    • A unit is one which has inside it a kitchen / cooking area, bathroom and toilet for exclusive use of the household living there. If any of these facilities are outside the unit, it isn't self contained.

    • To raise standards for tenants in the private rented property sector, and ensure that landlords are managing HMOs to the required standards.

      Landlords can benefit from having support from the council to manage their properties more effectively. It also reduces unfair competition from landlords who undercut their rents but offer poor quality accommdation. Having a licence can also help if disputes with tenants arise, because it confirms the quality of the accommodation.


    • Benefits to landlords include:


      • Support from the HMO licensing team to manage your properties more effectively
      • You can guarantee tenants a certain standard of accommodation
      • Reputable landlords will no longer have to face unfair competition from those who undercut rents and offer poor quality accommodation

      Some landlords have also said that having a licence could help when disputes arise as it will confirm the quality of their accommodation.

    • There are some common problems associated with HMOs, including poor fire safety standards, overcrowding, inadequate facilities and poor or unscrupulous management. Mandatory licensing is designed to tackle these problems.

    • The Housing Act 2004 introduced three types of licensing for the private rented sector:


      • Mandatory HMO licensing
      • Additional HMO licensing
      • Selective licensing of all private rented property in a neighbourhood (under certain conditions)

      The information on these pages refers specifically to mandatory HMO licensing. You can find out more about the other types of licensing at www.communities.gov.uk/housing

    • When you count the number of storeys in a building you need to include:

      • basements and attics if:
        • they are occupied
        • have been converted for occupation
        • are in use by residents.
      • any storeys which are occupied by you and your family if you are a resident landlord
      • all the storeys in residential occupation, even if they are self-contained
      • any business premises or storage space on the ground floor or any upper floor (you don't need to count basements used for business or storage unless the basement is the only or main entrance to the HMO from the street).
    • To grant you a licence, we must be satisfied that:

      • The proposed licence holder and any manager of the property is a fit and proper person
      • The proposed licence holder is the most appropriate person to hold the licence
      • Proper management standards are being applied at the property
      • The HMO is reasonably suitable, or can be made suitable, for occupation by the number of tenants allowed under the licence with at least the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities. These include the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities.

      The licensing application form contains questions which will enable the licensing team to decide whether or not the landlord and the property meet the criteria and can be given a licence.


    • The licence will automatically cease to have effect and will be removed from the public register of HMO licences.

    • If you intend to continue letting the property as a licensable HMO when the current licence expires, then you will have to apply for a new licence.

    • You should apply for a new licence at least two months before the current licence expires. This should then allow enough time to enable a new licence to be processed and approved so that it will come in to operation from the date of the expiry of the current licence onwards.

      This is why we are writing to all existing licence holders four months prior to the expiry date of their current licence asking them to confirm whether they are still responsible for the property and whether they intend to continue operating the property in question as a licensable HMO.

      Once you have confirmed that you are still responsible for the property and intend to continue letting it as a licensable HMO, we will write to you again with more exact timescales.

    • Although we already hold information about your property from your first licence application, we need to know about any changes in circumstances that may have occurred over the past five years or so. You will also need to provide updated information about your status as a fit and proper person to act as the licence holder.

    • Yes - local housing authorities are able to recover the full costs incurred in administering the licence scheme and therefore a further licence fee will be charged.
      The processing of a new licence application is very similar to that involved with an initial application. All of the stages required by the legislation under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 must still be followed and a detailed assessment of your application must be carried out before a new licence can be granted.
      We do however recognise the financial constraints faced by landlords and have tried to reflect this in the licence fee.
      Details of the revised licence fees are attached below in 'HMO Licensing - How much do I have to pay? - licence renewal'.

    • In most cases the new licence will last for a further five years.
      Licences may however be granted for shorter periods where there are any concerns over the management arrangements or where there have been avoidable delays in making an effective licence application.

    • If the property plan you provided with your initial licence application is still accurate then it should not be necessary to provide a further plan in most cases. We will contact you if there are any problems with the existing plan.

    • Yes. Any safety certificate that is out of date must be renewed before a new licence can be granted. This applies to:

      • Gas safety certificates (if the property has a gas supply)
      • Inspection certificates for the electrical installation
      • Test certificates for the fire alarm system
      • Test certificates for the emergency lighting system (if fitted)
      • Portable electrical appliance test certificate (PAT Test) if electrical equipment is supplied as part of the tenancy.

      You will also need to provide an updated declaration that all upholstered furniture you provide as part of the tenancy is fully compliant with fire safety regulations.

    • If your property fully complies with the City Council’s adopted standards at the date of granting the new licence and there are no unresolved health and safety issues carrying over from the initial licence, then it should not be necessary to carry out a further inspection.
      We will however carry out a risk assessment for each new licence to decide whether an inspection is required, and if so, how soon this would be. We will then inform you of the outcome as necessary.
      An inspection may however be carried out at any time in connection with any enquiries received from the occupiers or neighbours.

    • The licence conditions specified in Schedule 1 of your existing licence concerning the proper management and maintenance of the premises will be generally similar on the new licence.
      Any specific works or actions specified in Schedule 2 of your existing licence should have been completed by the time the new licence is granted and therefore in most cases it should not be necessary to include these conditions again.

    • If all of the conditions have not been complied with then this is an offence for which you could be fined up to a maximum of £5000 per breach of licence condition.
      For example it may have been specified that additional amenities should have been installed to make the house suitable for occupation by a certain number of persons. If this work has not been completed then evidence could be gathered with a view to instigating legal proceedings.
      You are therefore urged to look through the schedule of licence conditions to ensure that any works required are completed.
      Bearing in mind that the City Council is unlikely to be able to prosecute all such cases of non-compliance, then it is proposed that an alternative sanction would be to reduce the operative period of the new licence.

    • The penalties for operating a licensable HMO without a licence once the current licence expires are the same as those for failing to obtain a licence in the first place:

      • Failure to obtain a licence – a fine of up to £20,000
      • Permitting an excessive number of occupants – a fine of up to £20,000
      • Rent repayment orders
      • Interim Management Orders
      • Inability to issue notice to quit to existing shorthold assured tenancies.
    • You will need to apply for a change to the licence, known as a variation. The alterations you have made may mean that additional facilities are required.

    • If the managing agent is the licence holder, the licence will need to be revoked, and the new managing agent will have to apply for a licence in their own right.

      If they were identified as the manager, the licence will need to be changed to show the new manager. You will be charged 10% of the original fee for the variation.

      If the managing agent is not the licence holder or manager, you need to write to us, and we will update our records. You will not be charged for this.

    • If you are the licence holder, then the existing licence will be revoked by the Council. The new owner will have to apply for a licence in their own right if it is to continue as a House in Multiple Occupation.

      If you are not the licence holder, then the licence holder may apply for a change to the existing licence, known as a variation. They will be charged 10% of the original fee for the variation. This is particularly important if you were identified as the manager of the property, but will not continue to act as the manager.

    • You may either:

      • request, in writing, that the licence be revoked
      • allow the licence to run until it expires, then notify the Council that it’s no longer required.
    • If you are to be the licence holder, then the existing licence will need to be revoked by the Council. You will then have to apply for a licence in your own right if the property is to continue as a House in Multiple Occupation.

      If you are not to be the licence holder, then the licence holder may apply for a variation to the existing licence. This is particularly important if you are to be the manager of the property.

    • Yes – we would encourage you to indicate your acceptance on the new application form allowing the service of documents electronically.