HMO definitions, exemptions and special cases

Larger Developments for Student Accommodation NOT Managed and Controlled by Educational Establishments

Student accommodation run by private providers where students live in “cluster” flats are classed as HMOs under the Housing Act 2004.

These cluster flats meet the definition of an HMO

As the accommodation is operated by a private provider, the properties are not exempt under Schedule 14.

The Schedule 14 exemption applies where the accommodation is:

  • Managed and controlled by the university establishment; and
  • The university is signed up to a code of practice; and
  • The accommodation is listed on the university establishment “building list”; and
  • The occupiers are attending a full-time course at the university establishment that manages the accommodation.

All of the above criteria must apply. If a private provider is signed up the National Code for Standards for Larger Developments for student accommodation not managed or controlled by Educational Establishments then this does not give the exemption from the definition of an HMO because:

  • The provider is managing and controlling the accommodation, not the university;
  • The accommodation is not on the university “building list”
  • The occupiers are not in a building managed by their university.

While each “cluster flat” falls outside the national mandatory HMO licensing requirement, as Oxford City Council has an additional licensing scheme that covers all flats that are HMOs in the City to be licensed, this means that the cluster flats in larger student accommodation blocks are required to have an HMO licence.

The Council recognises that where the provider is signed up the National Code then the accommodation should meet certain standards and is audited independently by the Code. Therefore, the Council will issue one licence to cover each block rather than one licence per cluster flat. The National Code is recognised as an Accreditation Scheme and the provider is eligible to apply for a five year HMO licence (this may be issued on the first application).

If the provider is not signed up to the code, then each individual flat will require an HMO licence and on renewal, may be eligible for a two or five year licence as per the normal renewal criteria.