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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Is your home a HMO?

A house in multiple occupation, or HMO, is a particular type of rented housing. HMOs are shared housing, and might be used by students, single people, young workers and people newly arrived in Northern Ireland.

These properties must be licensed. They must also meet extra safety standards.

If you live in a property that is classed as a HMO, you should check that the property is fully licensed.

How do I know if I live in a HMO?

Your home is a HMO if:

  • Three or more people live in it; AND
  • There are at least three separate households or families in the property; AND
  • At least one person in the property is paying rent.

Who counts as a family or household member?

The following people are counted as members of your family for HMO purposes:

  • Your partner;
  • Any relative of yours;
  • Any relative of your partner;

A “relative” means a:

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

Similarly, your relatives and your partner’s relatives will be regarded as members of the same family.

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. 

Any person who lives in the property because they have been employed as domestic help or a personal carer for someone else living in the property is regarded as being a member of the same family as the person who they are helping or caring for.

When is a property not a HMO?

There are some exclusions to the HMO scheme. This means that even though a property meets the definition above, it doesn’t have to be licensed and it doesn’t have to meet the extra safety standards.

A property will not be a HMO if:

  • It is purpose built student accommodation and is managed by: Queen’s University; Ulster University; Stranmillis University; St Mary’s University; Belfast Metropolitan College; Northern Regional College; North West Regional College; Southern Regional College; South Eastern Regional College; South West College; or College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise;
  • It is managed by the Policing Board, Fire and Rescue Board or a health and social care body;
  • It is managed by the Housing Executive or a housing association;
  • It is regulated by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority;
  • It is occupied solely by a religious community;
  • It is owned by the Crown and occupied solely by members of the armed forces and their families;
  • It is a prison, remand centre, young offenders centre or juvenile justice centre;
  • It is occupied solely by the owner and the owner's family.