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HMO (landlord) licensing

The private rented sector is an important part of our housing market, housing 4.4 million households in England. The quality of privately rented housing has improved rapidly over the past decade with surveys showing that 84% of private renters are satisfied with their accommodation, and staying in their homes for an average of 3.5 years. Walsall Council recognises the important role that well managed and appropriately located HMOs have to play in providing valuable accommodation. We support good landlords who provide decent well maintained homes, and avoid further regulation on them. Unnecessary regulation increases costs and red tape for landlords, and can stifle investment. It also pushes up rents and reduces the choice for tenants. However, a small number of rogue or criminal landlords knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation. We are determined to crack down on these landlords so that they either improve the service they provide or leave the sector.

Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 provides for local authorities to licence Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in their areas. If you own or manage a HMO that is occupied by five or more persons in two or more separate households then you MUST make a valid HMO application to Walsall Council. You can download and complete the application form here.

Government Legislation

The Government Statutory Instrument greatly expands the types of properties that require a licence under the mandatory Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

Application Fees

The current fees a HMO application are available here.  

Mandatory Licensing

The first thing you need to decide is whether your property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). As a simple rule of thumb, an HMO is any property (house of flat) occupied by three or more people comprising two or more households who share facilities (kitchen, bathroom and/or toilet), even if they occupy the property on a single tenancy.

The occupants are all considered to be part of the same household (Section 258 Housing Act 2004) if they are all members of the same family. This includes people living together as husband and wife or in a similar same sex relationship, plus others related to them as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or cousin. A half-blood relationship is treated the same as full blood and a stepchild is treated the same as a child.

Mandatory Licensing for certain larger types of HMOs was introduced by the Housing Act 2004. It targets larger, higher risk HMOs because:

  • physical conditions in some of them can be poor

  • there is a significantly increased risk of dying or being injured in a fire in them

  • a range of health, safety and general welfare problems for residents can arise if  structural conditions are unsuitable for the number of people in them or if conversion has been poorly undertaken.

  • there are often problems of management, especially where facilities are shared

  • tenants are often vulnerable and may not have access to other housing options.

The mandatory scheme is a national initiative that affects every HMO that meets the following characteristics:

  • is occupied by 5 or more occupants (who comprise two or more separate family units or ‘Households’) and;

  • share amenities such as bathroom, kitchen, or toilet facilities or where all the units of accommodation are not fully self-contained (i.e. although a kitchen, bathroom or WC are provided for the tenant’s use elsewhere in the building, they are not actually situated within their unit of accommodation.)

In order to grant a licence we must be satisfied that:

The proposed licence holder is a ‘fit & proper’ person and the most appropriate person to hold the licence. The decision on this rests with the council.

Proper management standards are being applied at the property. The council has set out reasonable expectations on what a landlord should provide as part of their application and this includes but is not limited to:

Evidence that the property is safe to occupy for example;

  • valid gas safety certificate

  • valid electrical installation report

  • relevant fire detection and alarm certificate

  • emergency lighting certificate

  • the property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which evidences that it meets at least a Rating of E.

A copy of a Disclosure Certificate which can be obtained by completing an application at

The application fees applied by Walsall Council. Please visit our Fees and Charges page The HMO is reasonably suitable (or can be made suitable) for occupation by the number of tenants allowed under the licence. It must comply with the minimum prescribed standards of amenities and facilities. These include the number, type and quality of shared bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities. Our current Minimum Property and Management Standards Applicable to Houses in Multiple Occupation can be found at  Walsall Amenity Standards (PDF 388KB)

  • The property is free from category 1 hazards. The council as part of their assessment of the HMO application will undertake an inspection of the property to assess for hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Where Category 2 hazards are identified the landlord will be notified of these and given a timescale of when they need to be remedied by.

Landlords are expected to work with the Council and other agencies to combat anti-social behavior caused by their tenants and there will be an expectation that landlords will remind tenants of their obligations and take appropriate action where they breach them.

How long is my licence valid for?

HMO licences are valid for up to 5 years (and conditions will be attached to it). The decision on whether to grant the full five years rests solely with the Council. The Council will normally only issue a licence for a period of 1 Year for all of the following cases:

  • your application follows an investigation made by the Council
  • your application follows a request made by the Council for you to apply
  • where a property should in the opinion of the Council have been licensed previously
  • there is evidence of previous poor management of a HMO

Penalties for not licensing HMOs

The Council will retain the right to take legal action for failure to licence an HMO.

Failure to license a property can lead to either;

  • an unlimited fine upon prosecution or 
  • civil Penalty Notice of up to £30,000

The Council (and tenants) also have the right, in certain circumstances, to apply for a Rent Repayment Order against the landlord.

Follow this link to view the HMO Licence Application Form (pdf 1.18MB)

HMO application process

We seek to consider valid applications for an HMO license within 42 days of receipt of all relevant information (including fee) from the applicant. If due to circumstances of  an individual application, we are unable to consider the application within this time period we will notify the applicant and state what the extended time period will be.

If you would like more information on HMO licensing then please contact us.