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HMO Licensing Information

The Government decided that certain large houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) should be subject to further regulation to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupiers. The Housing Act 2004 prescribes a compulsory licensing scheme that applies, from April 6th 2006, to all HMOs that fall into the following categories:

Houses with three or more storeys, including basements and HMOs with shops underneath; and

Houses where there is material sharing of an amenity, such as a bathroom, kitchen or toilet facilities; and

Houses that have five or more occupants.


Every HMO that fulfils all three of these criteria will require a licence. There are strict penalties for landlords who do not or will not comply. Licences will be granted subject to:


Receipt of the completed application form plus the licence fee.

The landlord or manager has to be a “fit and proper person”.

The landlord or manager must demonstrate that proper arrangements are in place for the management of the house.


Row of houses in multiple occupation


The house must be reasonably suitable for the number of occupants or proposed number of occupants.


The licence will be held by the licence holder, this may be the owner, manager or agent, but must be the most appropriate person to hold the licence.

The licence holder must be a “fit and proper person” and the Government have decided that certain convictions actually preclude a person from being “fit and proper”. The Council must take into account any previous unspent convictions for the following matters when deciding whether an applicant for an HMO licence is “fit and proper”:

Violence, sex offences, fraud or drugs;

Housing or Landlord and Tenant laws;

Unlawful discrimination.


The applicant must demonstrate that they are a fit and proper person and declare any matters above which the Council must have regard to. A Criminal Records Bureau check may be requested if appropriate.

The applicant must also demonstrate that satisfactory arrangements for the management of the house are in place. Previous failures of management which have resulted in enforcement action by the Council may preclude the applicant from holding a licence.

Licences will normally last for five years, but the Council has decided that certain HMOs on our records may be subject to a shorter licence period. This would enable the landlord to improve the condition and management of the house, under the direction of the HMO team, and work towards a full five year licence.
There will be conditions attached to each licence. The Government has set out what it expects conditions to be, but Councils can also attach discretionary conditions that are appropriate to the local area.

The Council has worked with landlords of properties on the HMO database to ensure that all such properties are now licensed. The Council carried out a borough wide survey during the summer of 2005 to check on all the three storey houses, requesting information on tenure and ownership. This has been a successful way of making sure that licensable HMOs are known to us and that landlords receive the information and assistance they need to make the transition to HMO licensing as smoothly as possible.

There will be ongoing work with landlords, locally, to ensure all new HMOs that are licensable are targeted and go through the licensing process. However, landlords who have not received an application pack or think, from the information on this web page, that their house requires licensing should contact the Council as soon as possible. Operating an unlicensed HMO is a criminal offence that carries, on conviction, a fine of up to £20,000. While the Council will make every effort to contact landlords of HMOs that will be subject to mandatory licensing, it is the responsibility of the individual landlord to apply for a licence.

More information on the whole subject of HMO licensing can be viewed on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government DCLG website

Application forms are only available direct from the Housing enforcement/HMO team.

Contact the HMO Licensing Officer by email at ehadmin@bedford.gov.uk or  telephone the Council's Community Regulation Team on 01234 718099.

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