HMOs are types of shared housing. In Northern Ireland a HMO property must be licensed. Before a licence is granted, the council has to be satisfied that the property is suitable for the number of people who will be living in it and that the person who will be managing the property is “fit and proper”.
A new licensing scheme was introduced on 1 April 2019. Before then, HMO properties had to be "registered' but the owner didn't need to apply for a license. HMOs which were registered under the old scheme were automatically converted to licensed HMOs on 1 April 2019, but will have to apply for a new license on the date the old registration was due to expire.
If your HMO isn’t licensed, this is something to be concerned about and you should get advice.
Check to see if your HMO is licensed
You can check the HMO online portal to see if your HMO is licensed.
This portal should tell you when the license was granted, who the owner and building manager are and what the maximum occupancy for the property is. The license should also state if there are any extra conditions attached, such as restrictions on the use of the property or a requirement that certain improvements are carried out.
Why do HMOs have to be licensed?
HMO properties can sometimes carry extra risks or cause extra nuisance. There will be at least three separate households in a HMO and this can mean:
- extra noise;
- extra rubbish;
- an increased risk of injury if there is a fire, as there is no "head of household" to take responsibility for safe evacuation of the building.
If a landlord wants to set up a new HMO, the council has to be satisfied that the property is suitable for use by so many people and that the HMO is going to be professionally managed. This reduces the risk of any injury to the occupants and reduces the risk of nuisance to neighbours.
What happens if your HMO isn’t licensed?
Get advice if your HMO isn’t licensed. You can report an unlicensed HMO to the council. Running an unlicensed HMO is an offence, and the landlord will have to pay a penalty of £5,000 or face prosecution.
The landlord will also have to make sure that the property is no longer a HMO. This could mean starting eviction proceedings against some of the tenants in order to reduce the number of households living there. Your landlord must still follow the correct legal procedure in order to evict you, and you may still be protected from eviction by your tenancy agreement.
Get advice if your landlord says you have to leave the property.