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Change of ownership for a licensed HMO

  • HMO licences after a change of ownership

    If you buy or transfer ownership of a licensed HMO, section 28 of the House in Multiple Occupation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (link opens in new window) details the effect on a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence of a change of ownership. 

    Section 28 means that the HMO licence ceases on the date of the transfer unless the proposed new owner (or any of the proposed new owners) applies for a new licence in respect of the HMO before the transfer date.

    If you have transferred ownership of or purchased a licenced HMO since 1 April 2019 without applying for a new licence, the accommodation is unlicensed. 

    If the proposed new owner, or any of them, was not previously a licensee, they must apply for a new HMO licence for the accommodation if they want to continue to operate it as an HMO.

    If you are a proposed new owner who applies for an HMO licence, you can continue to operate the premises as an HMO while we consider your application.

    If the application is submitted before the expiry of the existing licence and before the transfer of ownership, the existing licence will then be held in the new owner’s name until a decision is made regarding the application. If you do not apply before the expiry of the existing licence and transfer of ownership, the accommodation will be unlicensed from whichever of the two dates is earliest.

    If you are considering applying for an HMO licence as a proposed new owner, you should read and consider section 3.3.6 on breach of planning control and 3.3.7 Overprovision, as your application will be treated as a new application.

    Belfast City Council will apply the decision of our December 2020 Licensing Committee when considering overprovision in applications where an existing licence is held by the new owner. This means that the transfer of ownership is not regarded as resulting in a new HMO or overprovision of HMOs in the area in which the accommodation is situated. 

    When buying a property, you should seek independent legal advice. 

    The seller may wish to email NIHMO at with confirmation of sale, to make us aware when the sale has completed so they can be removed from the HMO Licence Register.

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