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Houses in multiple occupation: shared housing

We recognise the contribution made to local housing by private landlords and want to work with them to make sure their properties are adequate, safe and meet legal requirements.

Houses occupied by different households are called houses in multiple occupation (HMO) and are of particular concern because of the higher risks some of them pose to occupiers.

HMO definition

A HMO is a premises occupied as a main residence by more than one single household and when one of the households shares or lacks a basic amenity ie toilet, bath/shower and wash hand basin, or cooking facilities.

A single household is defined as people:

  • who are all members of the same family (ie parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousins.
  • people married or living together (including single sex relationships)
  • a couple living with a someone related to one member of that couple
  • a household includes foster children or domestic employees (nannies, maids, etc)
  • a person receiving care and their carer.

For a more detailed definition, refer to Section 258 of the Housing Act 2004.

Main residence

A main residence can be:

  • students in full time education
  • refuges run by voluntary organisations for persons suffering from physical violence or mental abuse
  • migrant and seasonal workers living away from home
  • asylum seekers.

For example:

Situation Number of households
Three individual persons living in three separate bedsits Three households
A couple sharing with a third person Two households
A family of two adults and two children renting a property One household
An au pair living with a family One household

HMOs include:

  • bedsits
  • studios
  • houses partly converted into self-contained flats
  • hostels
  • accommodation above shops
  • shared houses and flats

HMO inspection

HMOs are regularly inspected and if conditions in the properties are not up to our standards,  enforcement action may be taken which could result in a penalty.

We regularly inspect HMOs and if conditions in the properties inspected are not up to our standards, we may take enforcement action in order to improve those properties.

Licensed and unlicensed HMOs

Barnet Council operates two HMO licneing schemes in Barnet, Mandatory HMO licensing and an Additional HMO Licensing Scheme. Not all HMOs require licenses. Find out whether or not your house is an HMO and whether or not it needs a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence by using our HMO checking tool

You can check if a HMO is licenced as the council displays a list of licensed HMOs on the Barnet Open Data Website 

If you know of a HMO which is licensable but has not been licensed, you can report it by emailing hmos@barnet.gov.uk or by ringing 020 8359 5355.

There are strict penalties for operating an HMO subject to a licensing scheme without a licence and this is a criminal offence. The maximum fine is currently unlimited on summary conviction.

The council also have the powers to take control of an HMO without a licence where conditions are very poor and where there is no realistic prospect of there being sufficient improvement within the foreseeable future.

Landlords may also have to pay back up to 12 months’ rent or housing benefit payments if required to do so by a Rent Repayment Order (RRO). RROs are made by the First-tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property). 

A Rent Repayment Order (RRO) is a financial penalty that can be imposed upon a landlord who, without reasonable excuse, manages or lets a property which ought to be licensed under Part 2 or 3 of the Act and is not licensed. An application to the Residential Property Tribunal (RPT) for an order may only be made if the landlord has been convicted of the offence of operating a licensed property without a licence, or the local authority is satisfied the offence has been committed (even though the landlord has not been prosecuted for offence).

A Local Housing Authority (LHA) may apply for an order where housing benefit has been paid to that landlord during any period when such an offence was being committed.

Occupiers (including former occupiers) are also permitted to make an application to the RPT for an RRO where the landlord has been convicted for failure to licence.

In the last 18 months two prosecution cases taken by Barnet have been linked to RROs requiring landlords to pay a total of £20,769.56 rent back to tenants on top of £16,000 fines and costs. More details on the cases can be found using the links below:

Case LON/ooAC/HMA/2016/0004

Case LON/ooAC/HMA/2015/0009


  • Private Sector Housing Team
  • Environmental Health
    Barnet House, 1255 High Road,
    Whetstone, London N20 0EJ
  • Tel: 020 8359 7995
  • FAX: 0870 889 6793
  • Email: housingconditions@barnet.gov.uk

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