When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

The new definition for HMOs

Advice for landlords in Northern Ireland

This page is for landlords operating in Northern Ireland.  You can find advice for tenants elsewhere on our website. Private landlords in Northern Ireland can call Landlord Advice on 028 9024 5640 and choose option 1. 

A property will be a HMO if:

  • three or more people live in it; AND
  • these people form at least three separate families or households; AND
  • at least one person is paying some form of rent to live in the property.

Who is counted in one family?

The following people are counted as members of one household for HMO purposes

  • people living together as a couple
  • relatives of either member of that couple
  • any person employed as a live-in carer or live-in domestic helper.

A “relative” means a

  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Child
  • Grandchild
  • Brother or sister
  • Uncle or aunt
  • Nephew or niece

So, if Thomas and Mark live together as partners and Thomas’s mum and Mark’s nephew also live in the property, this unit will count as one family. 


Some properties that meet the definition are still not regarded as HMOs. These are mostly properties, which are subject to other regulatory regimes, such as care homes or housing for armed forces.  You can see the full list of exceptions in Schedule 1 of the Houses in Multiple Occupation (NI) Act. Most properties owned and rented out privately will be seen as HMOs if they meet the definition. 

Your property won't be a HMO if you live in it or if a member of your household lives in it. This applies even if other people living in the property pay rent. 

What about flats in sub-divided properties?

A flat or apartment won’t be a HMO just because it is in a sub-divided property. These will only be regarded as HMOs if:

  • the individual flats are occupied in such a way as to meet the definition for a HMO; or
  • all the flats are owned by the same person and the occupants of the building have to share at least one basic amenity.

A basic amenity means:

  • a toilet;
  • a bathroom or shower; or
  • a kitchen.

If you are the owner of a flat that was previously classed as a HMO, you may receive a letter from the Housing Executive explaining that your property is no longer classed as such and that you do not need to apply for a licence.

Still not sure?

Contact Landlord Advice if you are still unsure if your home is classed as an HMO.