When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Standards in shared housing

A shared property that is a HMO has to meet certain standards in order to get its HMO license.

If you share with other people, but the property isn’t regarded as a HMO your property just has to meet the basic fitness standard that applies to all rented housing.

The standards are broken down into different areas.


Rooms have to have adequate natural lighting and any accessible parts of the property must also have electric lighting. Light switches have to be positioned so that they can be used as soon as you enter a room. Lights on stairways need to have a switch at the top and the bottom of the staircase.


Rooms should have an opening window. Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should have either a window that opens or a ventilation system that meets specific requirements. It’s not sufficient to use a door or louvered door as the sole source of ventilation in a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

Any room with an open flue gas heating appliance must have suitable and sufficient permanent ventilation.

Heating and plumbing

The heating system in the property has to be able to maintain a temperature of 21°C when the temperature outside is -1°C.

The heating must be safe and efficient, and controlled by the people living in the property.

The water supply and drainage system has to be maintained in good, clean and working order and the landlord has to make sure that any water fitting likely to be damaged by frost is protected from such damage.

Electrical safety

Landlords of HMO properties have to make sure that every fixed electrical installation is inspected and tested by a qualified person at least every five years. The landlord must give the council a copy of the electrical safety certificate.

Bathing and toilet facilities

There have to be enough bathing and toilet facilities in the property for the number of people living there. This means one bathroom or shower room and one toilet for every five people.

Food storage and preparation

There are standards relating to how the kitchen should be laid out in order to make it safe to use and easy to keep clean and hygienic. There must be enough space to store food, and the kitchen has to have a fixed worktop – the size of this depends on how many people use the kitchen.

Your landlord has to provide one cooker, grill and oven for every five people in the property. If there are 6 or 7 people in the property, the landlord can provide a microwave instead of a second cooker.


Wheelie bins and any recycling bins required by the council must be provided for the tenants. The landlord or HMO manager should also give you clear instructions about how to dispose of rubbish and about when bins are collected.

Safety equipment

The property must have carbon monoxide detectors and fire safety equipment. The specific type of equipment needed is explained in the Fire Safety Guidance for HMOs.


The property’s external decoration must be sound. Any defective joinery has to be repaired and decorated.

At the start of the tenancy, the landlord must make sure that the decoration of the interior, including paintwork, flooring, ceilings and skirting boards, is clean and sound.

What happens if your property doesn’t meet these standards?

If your property doesn't meet these standards, it may not be suitable for use as a HMO. If you are concerned about conditions in your HMO, you should contact the HMO department to ask officers to inspect your rented home.