Skip to main content

Guide to Northern Ireland Houses in Multiple Occupation

Contents

Introduction

Section 1: Definitions
1.1 What is a HMO?
1.2 Definition of living accommodation

Section 2: HMO Licensing Scheme
2.1 What is the HMO Licensing Scheme?
2.2 Requirement for HMOs to be licensed
2.3 What is a temporary exemption notice?
2.4 Building or Part of Building that are not HMOs?
2.5 Purpose of the HMO Licensing Scheme?
2.6 Who administers the HMO Licensing Scheme?
2.7 Applications for an HMO licence?
2.8 Managing Agents
2.9 How long is an HMO licence valid for?

Section 3: HMO Licensing Application Requirements and Procedures 
3.1 Applying for an HMO licence
3.2 Fees
3.3 Applications for HMO licences: requirements and procedure
3.3.1 Relevant interest in the HMO
3.3.2 Occupancy Levels
3.3.3 Fit and proper persons
3.3.4 Anti-social behaviour 
3.3.5 Satisfactory management arrangements
3.3.6 Breach of planning control 
3.3.7 Over provision
3.3.8 Publish the notice of application 
3.3.9 Making a representation in response to an HMO application
3.3.10 Notification to Statutory Authorities
3.3.11 Valid Application (Supporting documentation) 
3.4 Determining the application
3.5 Refusal 
3.6 Appeals

Section 4: Requirements for HMO properties
4.1 Landlords responsibilities
4.2 Anti-social behaviour 
4.3 Overcrowding in HMOs
4.4 General HMO management 
4.5 Tenants Rights and Responsibilities

Section 5: HMO Enforcement Actions
5.1 Enforcement Action
5.2 When can an HMO licence be revoked?
5.3 Appeal of an enforcement notice?

Contact us  


Introduction

On Monday 1 April 2019, the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (HMO Act (NI) 2016) (link opens in new window) came into force and local councils across Northern Ireland took over responsibility for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from the NI Housing Executive. 

All HMOs must be licensed by their local council, (unless a temporary exemption notice is in effect).

View HMO License Register and Applications for Consultation

Code of Practice

The Department for Communities has prepared a code of practice for the management of houses in multiple occupation. View the code of practice.


Section 1: Definitions

1.1 What is a HMO?

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is defined in Section 1 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 as a building or part of a building (for example, a flat) that is:

  • living accommodation
  • occupied by three or more persons as their only or main residence
  • those living in it form more than two households, and
  • rents are payable or additional considerations  by at least one of the people living in the accommodation.

Section 1 also introduces Schedule 1 (exceptions) (link opens in a new window) to the definition of “house in multiple occupation”.

1.2 Definition of living accommodation

Section 2 (link opens in new window) defines “living accommodation” for the purposes of Section 1 (link opens in new window).  A building, or part of a building, is living accommodation:

(i) if it is capable of being occupied as a separate dwelling, or

(ii) if it forms part of any building or group of buildings in single ownership and its occupants share a toilet, personal washing facilities or facilities for the preparation or provision of cooked food.  

“Single ownership” is defined in subsections (2) and (3) in a way which prevents avoidance of the legislation by artificially dividing ownership of a property between members of a family or connected companies.


Section 2: HMO Licensing Scheme

2.1 What is the HMO Licensing Scheme?

From 1 April 2019, the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 came into effect, which makes it a statutory requirement for all HMOs in Northern Ireland to be licensed (unless a temporary exemption notice is in effect).

The HMO Licensing Scheme, has replaced the HMO Registration Scheme, which was managed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. Any HMOs that were registered in accordance with the statutory Registration Scheme were converted to licences on the 1 April 2019, in accordance with the provisions of The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Commencement and Transitional Provisions) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019.

2.2 Requirement for HMOs to be licensed

Section 7 (link opens in new window) of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 requires every house in multiple occupation to be licensed under this Act unless a temporary exemption notice is in effect. A licence for an HMO authorises the use of a property as a HMO subject to the licence conditions.

2.3 What is a temporary exemption notice?

Section 15 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 allows the council to issue a temporary exemption notice on application from the HMO owner.

A temporary exemption notice applies where the owner of an unlicensed HMO makes an application to the council explaining the steps to be taken to stop the premises from being an HMO (such as ensuring that the number of occupants reduces below 3, or that sufficient basic amenities for exclusive use are installed so that occupants do not have to share them), and the council must be satisfied that these steps will be successful.

2.4 Buildings or Parts of Buildings that are not HMOs?

Some buildings or parts of buildings are not HMOs. Full details are included in Schedule 1 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016.

  • Properties that are occupied only by the owner(s) or the owner(s) plus tenants.
  • Properties controlled and managed by the following public sector bodies:
    • the Northern Ireland Policing Board;
    • the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board;
    • a health and social care body.
  • Properties managed by these public sector bodies:
    • the Northern Ireland Housing Executive;
    • a housing association registered under Part 2 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1992.
  • Properties that are registered under Article 12 of the Health and Personal Social Services (Quality, Improvement and Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, and regulations under Article 23 of that Order impose requirements in relation to that property.
  • Properties that are occupied by students that are managed and controlled by an educational establishment, which are signed up to the associated accreditation scheme.
  • Where a specified person or a person of a specified description, which is listed in the regulations and that educational establishment is a member of either code of practice referred to in the Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2019, which are signed up to the associated accreditation scheme.  
  • Where the occupants are members of, and fully maintained by, a religious order whose principal occupation is prayer, contemplation, religious education or the relief of suffering.
  • Properties owned by the crown and occupied by members of the armed forces.
  • Prisons, a young offenders centre, a juvenile justice centre or a remand centre.

2.5 Purpose of the HMO Licensing Scheme?

The Department for Communities has introduced the statutory HMO Licensing Scheme to ensure that occupiers in HMO properties can enjoy accommodation that is safe and of a reasonable standard and at the same time minimise any negative impacts on the neighbourhood and surrounding area. The HMO licensing scheme also aims to provide additional enforcement powers for local councils and increased penalties for criminal offences to ensure effective regulation of HMOs. 

2.6 Who administers the HMO Licensing Scheme?

On the 1 April 2019, the responsibility for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulation transferred from the Housing Executive to Northern Ireland local councils.

The granting, refusal, variation or revocation of a licence rests with the individual council in which the HMO resides. However, Belfast City Council, on behalf of each of the local councils across Northern Ireland will be responsible for managing the HMO Licensing Scheme application process, which will include processing all licence requests, validating the requests, checks and inspections of HMO properties, issuing enforcement notices for unlicensed HMOs or breaching licensing conditions.

2.7 Applications for an HMO licence?

An application for an HMO licence must be made by the owner of the HMO.  Whilst the applicant can be in the name of one owner, the council must assess whether all the owners of the property are a fit and proper person. Section 8 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 (link opens in new window) sets out the matters which must be taken into account when a council is considering an application for an HMO licence. In addition to the listed matters, the council may take into account any matter which it considers to be relevant. The details of the procedural requirements, in relation to an application for an HMO licence, are contained within Schedule 2 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 (link opens in new window).

Pursuant to section 26 of the Act in the case of joint owners the application can be made by any one of the owners, or any two or more of those owners jointly.

2.8 Managing Agents

To act on behalf of the owner of an HMO the managing agent must be named on the licence. Acting on behalf of an HMO owner as a managing agent but not named on the licence is a criminal offence and both the owner and managing agent can be prosecuted and on summary convicted each party can be fined up to a maximum of £10,000. Management agents should check that their clients (or prospective clients) have a valid HMO licence in place for the property they have been asked to manage. Managing an unlicensed HMO is a criminal offence and on summary conviction the managing agent can be fined up to £20,000.

2.9 How long is an HMO licence valid for?

An HMO licence is granted for a five year period, and is renewed every five years.


Section 3: HMO Licensing Application Requirements and Procedures

3.1 Applying for an HMO licence

You can apply and pay for your HMO licence online (link opens in new window).

When you apply you must:

  • pay the appropriate fee
  • include any supporting documents you have available

If you don’t have all the necessary documents, you should submit your application and provide the remaining documents later. Please be aware that the application will not be considered until all the documentation has been submitted.

We will not consider the licence application without the full fee payment.

3.2 Fees

You will be asked to pay the licence fee at the end of the application. Please do not exit the payment screen until you receive confirmation of payment.

The cost of the HMO licence is based on the number of tenants that you propose to licence the HMO for.

The cost per person for the five year licence is £185.

3 persons = £555

4 persons = £740

5 persons = £925

6 persons = £1110

7 Persons = £1295

8 persons = £1480

9 persons = £1665

10 persons = £1850

Each additional person £185.

3.3 Applications for HMO licences: requirements and procedure

Schedule 2 of the HMO Act NI (2016) (link opens in new window) sets out the procedure for processing an application for an HMO licence.

Outlined below are the key elements that will be considered as part of the application process.

3.3.1 Relevant interest in the HMO

Schedule 2, Paragraph 1(2)(e) of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 (link opens in new window) requires the application to contain the name and address of any person (other than the owner) who has a relevant interest in the HMO. A relevant interest is defined as a freehold estate, a leasehold estate (unless the unexpired term is three years or less), a mortgage, charge or lien.

3.3.2 Occupancy Levels

Schedule 2, paragraph 1(2)(f) (link opens in new window) of the Act requires the owner to specify the maximum number of persons who it is proposed will occupy the accommodation as their only or main residence at any one time. The permitted occupancy is dependent on the number and size of the rooms available as sleeping accommodation, the age and relationship status of the occupants and the personal washing facilities available to the proposed occupants.

Additional fire safety measures may be required where vulnerable occupants are occupying the HMO. Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service define as vulnerable person as anyone who may need additional measures to help them to evacuate in the event of a fire due to impaired mobility, a disability or other illness which may impact on their ability to self-evacuate. Compliance with this guide is not necessarily sufficient to address the protection of vulnerable residents from fire. You should read The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) guide titled, “Fire Safety in Specialised Housing” for more advice.

3.3.3 Fit and proper persons

Section 10 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 (link opens in a new window) specifies matters to which the council must have regard (in addition to other things it may consider) when deciding whether an applicant, an owner, or a managing agent, is a fit and proper person. A person who is disqualified under Section 38 (link opens in new window) of the Act cannot be regarded as a fit and proper person. In any other case, the council must consider specified matters: whether the person has committed certain types of offence, practiced unlawful discrimination or contravened housing law or landlord and tenant law; actions or failures to act in relation to antisocial behaviour; affecting a house let by the applicant or for which the applicant was an agent. The council may also take into account any other matter which it considers to be relevant.

If an owner or managing agent is a body (whether incorporated or not), the body is not a fit and proper person if any of the following is not a fit and proper person:

(a) a director of the body,

(b) a partner of it, or

(c) any other person concerned in the management of the body.

For the purposes of assessing whether the applicant is a fit of proper person, the council will require the applicant to produce a current suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment (FRA).  In completing the application form the applicant must declare that the premises will be maintained in accordance with the FRA. The application must also declare that the property will be managed in accordance with the requirements of the Northern Ireland HMO Fire Safety Guide. If it appears that an applicant fails to comply with that declaration, the council will reassess whether that person continues to be a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

3.3.4 Anti-social behaviour

In subsection Section 10(6) (link opens in new window) of the Act anti-social behaviour is defined as:

  • acting or threatening to act in a manner causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing in, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in residential premises or in the locality of such premises, or
  • using or threatening to use residential premises for illegal purposes.

3.3.5 Satisfactory management arrangements

Section 11 of the HMO Act (NI) 2016 (link opens in new window) outlines the considerations that a council must take into account when deciding whether suitable management arrangements are in place at application stage. An applicant must be able to demonstrate that any person proposed to be involved in managing the property has a sufficient level of competence, that those persons are fit and proper and that the proposed management structures are suitable. The applicant must also demonstrate that the funding arrangements for maintaining and managing the HMO are suitable. A letter from an accountant, bank or some other person with professional knowledge of the funding arrangements will be considered acceptable to meet this requirement.

The council may also take into account other considerations which it considers relevant.

3.3.6 Breach of planning control

The Planning (Use Classes) Order 2015

Pursuant to Article 3 of the Planning (Use Classes) Order 2015, HMOs have been established as a sui generis use class and consequently owners of HMO accommodation are required to have planning consent for HMO usage.

New Applications

Section 8(2)(a) of the 2016 Act (link opens in new window), as read with the definition in Section 9 , provides that a new application will be refused if use of the property as a HMO would be a breach of planning control. Carrying out development without planning permission, or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted, constitutes a breach of planning control.  Refusals on this ground are treated slightly differently from refusals on other grounds. In particular, the refusal must be made within 28 days of the application and there is no appeal to the county court.  

Renewal Applications

Pursuant to Section 20(4)(a) a breach of planning control cannot be taken into consideration when considering a renewal application. An application to renew the licence must be made before the licence ceases to have effect as any application received after the expiry of the licence will be treated as a “new application.

3.3.7 Over provision

New Applications

Section 8 of the 2016 Act states that a council may grant a HMO licence only if it is satisfied of certain criteria. These include in Section 8(2)(d) that the grant of the licence will not result in overprovision of HMOs in the locality in which the living accommodation is situated.

Section 12 goes on to specifically deal with overprovision. It reads:

(1) In considering whether the granting of a licence will result in overprovision in a locality for the purposes of section 8(2)(d), the council must have regard to:

(a) the number and capacity of licensed HMOs in the locality,

(b) the need for housing accommodation in the locality and the extent to which HMO accommodation is required to meet that need, and

(c) such other matters as the Department may by regulations specify.

(2) It is for the council to determine the localities within its district for the purposes of this section.

The Council is under a mandatory obligation to have regard to the issue of overprovision when assessing new applications and it must be satisfied that the grant of the licence will not result in overprovision of HMO accommodation in the locality.

Renewal Applications

Pursuant to Section 20(4)(b) of the 2016 Act  over provision cannot be taken into consideration when considering a renewal application. An application to renew the licence must be made before the licence ceases to have effect as any application received after the expiry of the licence will be treated as a “new” application.

3.3.8 Publish the notice of application

Not later than seven days after submitting your application to the HMO Unit you must publish at your own expense in one or more papers circulating in the locality of the HMO property notice of your application. The notice of application must state:

i. Name of the applicant or applicants.

ii. The address of the HMO property.

iii. The proposed occupancy level.

iiii. The council district in which the HMO is situated.

iv. The right to make representation about the application and who they can make a representation to.

You should send a copy of each published notice to the NI HMO Unit, preferably via your online application account. Or you can email the HMO Unit at NIHMO@belfastcity.gov.uk.

3.3.9 Making a representation in response to an HMO application 

Where a notice of application for a HMO licence has been received, the council will publish such notice on the Council website for a period of 28 days to allow representation to be made.

Representation can be submitted via the link (open in a new window) on the council website. Alternatively representation can be submitted via email at NIHMO@belfastcity.gov.uk or in writing to:

The NI HMO Unit, Belfast City Council, Cecil Ward Building, 4-10 Linenhall Street, Belfast, BT2 8BP.

A representation made in response to the published notice is only valid if it:

  • is made in writing,
  • sets out the name and address of the person making the representation, and
  • is made on or before the deadline for making written representation (the date published on the Council website).

If a valid representation is made, it cannot be treated confidentially as the NI HMO Unit must copy any such representation to the applicant including the name of the person making the representation but other personal information such as your address, phone number or email address will be removed.

The person making representation will receive acknowledgement of their submission.

If the application is allocated to a meeting of the Licensing Committee,  we will send you a letter inviting you to attend the meeting to speak to your representation. You will receive this letter at least seven days prior to the hearing.

At the hearing, elected representatives will decide if they would like you to speak to your representation. You will be provided with an opportunity to respond. You are only able to speak to matters referred to in your written representation.  You should be aware the hearing is minuted, and the minutes are published on the Belfast City Council website.  Your name and address is presented to the Licencing Committee but only your name is published in the minutes.

You do not have to attend the hearing if you do not want to, as your representation will be presented to the Licensing Committee as part of the process for making a determination about the HMO application under consideration.

3.3.10 Notification to Statutory Authorities

Schedule 2(3) of the Act (link opens in new window) states the council must send a copy of any application for a HMO to the statutory authorities. “The statutory authorities” means:

(i) the Chief Constable,

(ii) the Department,

(iii) the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board,

(iv) the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and

(v) such other authorities as the Department may by regulation appoint for this purpose.

3.3.11 Valid Application (Supporting documentation)

As you complete the application form you will be asked if you have certain documents currently available to upload, if you answer yes, you will be able to upload the relevant document, if you answer no, you can move onto the next question and upload the documentation at a later date to your application.

Pursuant to Section 87(1) General notices of the 2016 Act the following documents as listed in point 1 – 12 below are required under paragraph 1(1) or (1)(2)(h) of Schedule 2 before an application is considered valid:

1. Electrical Installation Condition Report

Valid, current certificates for the electrical installation, confirming compliance with the applicable edition of the I.E.E. Regulations. Certificates with either C1 or C2 faults indicated on the certificate will be deemed as non-compliant.

2. Fire detection and Alarm Systems

For a system installed to BS 5839-1:2017 “Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises. One of the following valid certificates is required -

  • Installation Certificate
  • Commissioning Certificate
  • Inspection and Servicing Certificate

For a system installed to BS 5839-6:2013 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises

For Grade A, B or C systems, one of the following valid certificates is required –

  • Installation Certificate
  • Commissioning Certificate
  • Inspection and Servicing Certificate

For Grade D Systems certification is not required.

3. Emergency Lighting (if applicable)

In accordance with the recommendation of BS5566. Part 1, Code of Practice for the Emergency Escape Lighting in Premises. One of the following valid certificates is required -

  • Completion certificate – Installation – Declaration of conformity
  • Completion certificate – Verification – Declaration of conformity
  • Emergency lighting inspection and test certificate

4. Current Portable Appliance Test (PAT) certificate

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use.

5. Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Energy Performance Certificate with a minimum E rating for energy efficiency.

6. Gas Safety Certificate (if applicable)

Valid, current certificate(s) issued within the last year by a Gas Safe registered installer.

7. Chimneys and Flues (if applicable)

A declaration as to the condition of any chimneys/flues and date they were last cleaned.

8. Expiry/useful date on CO detector (if applicable)

A carbon monoxide alarm is installed which meets the requirements of BS EN 50291:2001 in the same room as any gas appliance.

Additionally a carbon monoxide alarm is installed which meets the requirements of BS EN 50291:2001 in any room in the house which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

As a minimum alarms should be powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the alarm. Such alarms must be kept in proper working order and should incorporate a warning device to alert users when the working life is due to pass.

While Carbon Monoxide alarms may provide an extra measure of warning remember these are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.

9. Current Fire Risk Assessment

The Fire and Rescue Services (NI) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (NI) 2010 places responsibilities on person(s) with control of premises to assess the risk of harm from fire and to put in place suitable fire safety measures.

The appropriate person must record the significant findings of their fire risk assessment (including fire safety measures that have been, or will be, taken to ensure the safety of persons from fire) and any persons identified as being especially at risk from fire on the premises.

The aim of the fire risk assessment is:

  • To identify hazards and to reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as is reasonably practicable; and
  • To determine what fire safety measures and management policies are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the building should fire occur.

The completed fire risk assessment will be evaluated using the Northern Ireland HMO Fire Safety Guide as a benchmark. If the property is not deemed compliant the applicant will be afforded an opportunity to remedy the issues. If they are not remedied to the satisfaction of officers the council will take that into account when assessing whether the applicant is a fit and proper person.

Fire Risk Assessment templates are available at www.nifrs.org (link opens in new window)

10. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (if applicable)

A PEEP is a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. It is a bespoke 'escape plan' for individuals who may not be able to reach an ultimate place of safety unaided or within a satisfactory period of time in the event of any emergency.

Who needs a PEEP?

PEEPs may be required for occupants with:

  • mobility impairments
  • sight impairments
  • hearing impairments
  • cognitive impairments
  • other circumstances

A temporary PEEP may be required for:

  • short term injuries (i.e. broken leg)
  • temporary medical conditions
  • those in the later stages of pregnancy

The underlying question in deciding whether a PEEP is necessary is "can you evacuate the building unaided, in a prompt manner, during an emergency situation?" If the answer is "no", then it is likely that a PEEP is needed.

11. Proof of suitable funding arrangements

An applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to undertake any remedial or improvement works necessary to bring the property up to a licensable standard and maintain it in such a standard.

The applicant is therefore required to provide a letter from an accountant, bank or some other person with professional knowledge of the funding arrangements to demonstrate that the funding arrangements for maintaining and managing the HMO are suitable.  

12. An anti-social behaviour plan

In assessing whether an applicant is a fit and proper person the council must have regard to whether the applicant, their associate or former associate has engaged in any anti-social behaviour and their conduct as regards any anti-social behaviour engaged in by occupants of premises which they owned or managed. 

An applicant will be required to provide an anti-social behaviour plan to support an application for a licence. The plan must have regard to the council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Guide and the Standard Licence Conditions in relation to managing anti-social behaviour.

Read the Anti-Social Behaviour Guide.

3.4 Determining the application

The council must process a licence application within a reasonable time. The council will aim to determine applications before the end of the period of three months beginning with the date on which the council received a valid application. The application is only valid if the form is completed correctly, full payment is made and the required supporting documents are included.

Each local council decides on the licence applications for their own electoral area. They will consider the recommendations from the NI HMO Unit and any objections received and they may grant the licence in the terms applied for, grant other than those applied for or refuse the application.  

3.5 Refusal

Your council can refuse a HMO licence application for the reasons:

  • the property would breach planning control if being rented as a HMO
  • granting the licence would result in or contribute to over provision of HMOs in the area
  • general HMO management arrangements are not satisfactory
  • the property is not fit for occupation as a HMO or 
  • the owner, and any managing agents, are not fit and proper persons

3.6 Appeals

An appeal can be made by the applicant about the following council decisions:

  • To grant an HMO licence (including any decisions as to its terms or any conditions included in it).
  • To refuse an application for a HMO licence, unless the refusal is solely on the grounds of a breach of planning control. 

The appeal must be made in writing to the County Court before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of determination.


Section 4: Requirements for HMO properties

4.1 Landlords responsibilities

Licence conditions

All HMO licences are issued with conditions, as a minimum the licence will be granted with standard licence conditions. Read the Standard Licence Conditions for Houses in Multiple Occupation

In certain circumstances the licence many be granted with the additional condition, if this is the case those additional conditions along with a statement of reasons why those additional conditions have been imposed shall be appended to the licence certificate.

Code of practice

Section 63 of the 2016 Act provides that the Department for Communities may prepare and approve a code of practice with regard to the management of houses in multiple occupation which can be viewed here. (link opens in new window)

Failure to comply with the code of practice is not in itself an offence. However councils may take into account any breach of the code of practice as a relevant matter in deciding whether a person is a fit and proper person for the purpose of the 2016 Act.

Safe good quality accommodation

All HMO landlords must make sure that the accommodation they provide is safe, of good quality, and has suitable facilities for the number of occupants by making sure that:

  • all safety and maintenance certificates are valid and kept up to date
  • electrics and electrical appliances are safe, maintained and in proper working order at all times
  • stairways and escape routes are maintained free from obstructions
  • carbon monoxide alarm are installed (if applicable)
  • chimneys and flues cleaned annually (if applicable)
  • inspection records and tests are maintained
  • furniture is kept in a safe condition and proper working order
  • security arrangements are in place
  • heating under the control of the tenants is provided throughout the living accommodation

HMO landlords must also give tenants an information pack (in alternative languages or formats if appropriate) which includes: 

  • a copy of the HMO licence
  • copies of the current gas certificate, electrical safety report and energy performance certificates
  • advice on reporting anti-social behaviour
  • list of tenant duties and responsibilities
  • contact telephone numbers for the owner and / or managing agent, including an emergency out of hours contact number
  • emergency information (this must also display any emergency information clearly and prominently in the accommodation).

4.2 Anti-social behaviour

HMO licence holders must have an antisocial behaviour plan in place to manage and deal with anti-social behaviour arising from with the curtilage of their property. They must also keep a record of any instances of anti-social behaviour and any interventions or actions taken to deal with the issue.

Tackling anti-social behaviour

Responsible HMO landlords want to be good neighbours, take the behaviour of their tenants seriously and work to resolve any alleged anti-social behaviour linked to their properties.

Councils will provide a supporting role to resolve such issues. The NI HMO Unit has developed a guide highlighting ways to tackle anti-social behaviour linked to their properties. Read the guide to tackling anti-social behaviour.

4.3 Overcrowding in HMOs

The landlord must make sure the number of occupants specified on the licence is not exceeded.

4.4 General HMO management

Under the NI Houses in Multiple Occupation Act, landlords or agents must have good management policies and procedures in place to make sure physical standards are maintained, occupiers' rights are respected, and any problems which arise during the period of the licence are effectively addressed.

They must also be able to manage issues which may concern neighbours effectively (such as building maintenance, cleaning, noise or disturbance and suitability of the applicant or agent).

Councils may consider a landlord’s potential to manage these issues (or past performance) when deciding whether to grant a licence.

Councils may include additional conditions appropriate for regulating the management, use and occupation of an HMO. The NI HMO Unit is responsible for ensuring these conditions are met throughout the lifetime of the licence and may recommend the introduction of additional conditions, variation or revocation of licence depending on a landlord’s performance.

4.5 Tenants Rights and Responsibilities

If you live in a HMO, you will be able to check if the property you live in is licensed as an HMO and that it complies with the legislation. It should be safe, good quality, and have suitable facilities for the number of people living there. Your landlord should also give you an information pack.

Tenants also have responsibilities to make sure the landlord can carry out their duties; tenants must: 

  • allow the landlord or manager access, at all reasonable times, to any occupied room
  • provide them with any relevant information
  • comply with fire safety and litter/waste storage and disposal arrangements in the property
  • not hinder the landlord or manager in performing their duties
  • take reasonable care to avoid damaging anything which the landlord has an obligation to keep in good repair. 

If you suspect your property should be licensed and is not so licensed, or the licensee is not fulfilling the conditions of the licence, you should email the NIHMO Unit at nihmo@belfastcity.gov.uk.


Section 5: HMO Enforcement Actions

5.1 Enforcement Action

All HMO owners are responsible for ensuring that they have a valid HMO licence (unless a temporary exemption notice is in place) and comply with the conditions of any licence granted for the property. It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence or breach licensing condition. If a landlord is found not to have a valid HMO licence, the NI HMO Unit may on behalf of your local council take enforcement action, which could result in one of a number of the following actions:

  • variations to the terms of a licence;
  • issue fixed penalty notices;
  • prosecution and/ or  
  • revocation of the HMO licence. 

Under the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, the council has the power to inspect a property if it thinks it is a HMO. All enforcement action depends on the circumstances of each individual HMO, and will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

5.2 When can an HMO licence be revoked?

A council may revoke a licence at any time. There are a number of possible grounds that may lead to a revocation of a licence. These include:

  • the licence holder or agent is no longer a fit and proper person,
  • the accommodation is no longer suitable for occupation as an HMO and cannot be made suitable,
  • there has been a serious breach of the licence conditions.

5.4 Appeal of an enforcement notice?

Any person who the council is required to serve notice of a decision has the right to appeal against the decision in writing to the county court before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of determination.


Contact us

The NI HMO Unit
Belfast City Council
4-10 Linenhall Street
Belfast
BT2 8BP

Email nihmo@belfastcity.gov.uk or call us on 028 9027 0414.

Read aloud icon Read aloud