The existing legislation is contained in Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004.
Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a term that applies to houses and homes with a wide range of physical structures that are used mainly in the private rented sector (often for lower income single persons, some disadvantaged groups and student accommodation). Management and maintenance standards are often of a low quality.
Local Housing Authorities have long had obligations and powers over the HMO properties and in the 2004 Act these were more defined and distilled under Part 2 where the licensing of many HMO over three stories or more with five or more occupants have become mandatory. These licences last for five years.
Local Housing Authorities have enforcement powers and they can also apply to the Secretary of State to extend HMO licensing to other types of HMO or to specific areas. This was enabled to allow for individual local authorities the opportunity of addressing specific problems in an area and discretion to license private landlords in order to ensure that a minimum basic standard of management is achieved. The Local Housing Authorities must demonstrate to the Secretary of State that a selective licensing scheme is justified in their overall strategy for helping the quality of both the accommodation and the neighbourhood.
The definition of what is a HMO is contained in the 2004 Housing Act Section 254.
This is where living accommodation is occupied by persons who do not constitute a single household. Local Housing Authorities considering the licence application must consider both the suitability of the building as well as the suitability of the applicant.
Other details and variations to the obligations of the Local Housing Authorities are contained in the Act and can be accessed via the Government Website: