HMO definitions, exemptions and special cases

Number of persons

If one or two people live together (whether related or not) this is NOT an HMO. The threshold for creating an HMO is three or more people. Children are counted as equal to adults when determining whether a property is an HMO.

Single household

A household may be: 

(i) a single person; or 

(ii) several members of the same family

  • ‘Same family’ means all related by blood (up to first cousin distance) or marriage (or equivalent co-habiting arrangement)
  • Relationship of half-blood is treated as whole blood
  • Stepchildren are treated as own children
  • Foster children are treated as own children


  1. You rent a flat with your friend – this is TWO people in TWO households = NOT HMO
  2. You rent a house with your partner and your partner’s brother – this is THREE people in ONE household = NOT HMO
  3. You rent a house with your partner and a friend – this is THREE people in TWO households = HMO

Self-contained flats

A self-contained flat is one which has a kitchen, bathroom and toilet inside it for the exclusive use of the household living in the flat.

If the occupiers need to leave the flat to access any of these amenities then it is not self-contained.

Resident (live in) Landlords

A resident Landlord (owner) and family may share a house with one or two unrelated lodgers without the need for an HMO Licence. A third lodger means the house is an HMO and it must be licensed.

Domestic employees

If you have someone living with you (and your family) who does domestic work and does not pay rent, they (and their family) are considered part of your household. 

Domestic employees include:

  • Au pair
  • Nanny
  • Nurse
  • Carer
  • Governess
  • Servant (including maid, cook or cleaner)
  • Chauffeur
  • Gardener
  • Secretary
  • Personal assistant 

Live-in adult carers

A professional carer may live with up to three adult service users as a single household.

Foster families

A person living with their foster family are considered a single household.

Migrants, seasonal workers and asylum seekers

A migrant worker, seasonal worker, or asylum seeker occupies a property as their only or main residence if they meet the definitions stipulated in Regulation 5 of the Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 

Buildings which are not HMOs

The following types of building are not HMOs:

Buildings where the person managing or having control is:

  • The Local Housing Authority
  • A Registered Social Landlord
  • The Police
  • The Fire and Rescue Authority
  • The National Health Service

Buildings regulated by other Acts

Any building whose occupation is specifically regulated by another Act of Parliament is not classified as an HMO. For example, boarding houses used exclusively by boarding schools which are regulated under the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Care Standards Act 2000 and the Education Act 2011. These buildings must be managed in accordance with the Department for Education’s ‘Boarding schools: National Minimum Standards’.

Religious buildings

Any building (excluding Section 257 HMOs, which still applies) which is occupied principally for the purposes of a religious community whose principal occupation is prayer, contemplation, education or the relief of suffering.

Temporary exemptions from HMO licensing requirements

There is an automatic three month exemption from HMO licence requirements upon death of the licence holder, starting on the date of death. After three months, the person in control may ask for a second temporary exemption.

The council may consider three month temporary exemptions in other circumstances.

Please see this information page on temporary exemptions for more information and details on how to apply.