Houses in multiple occupation are clearly defined, and should be managed to certain standards and guidelines.

We have put together helpful documents explaining the standards tenants can expect and the licensing obligations for landlords and managers of houses in multiple occupation (HMO).

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property which is occupied by three or more people forming two or more households, where facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms are normally shared. It includes bedsits, shared houses (students and professionals) and some self-contained flats.

Properties of three or more floors, with five or more tenants belonging to two or more households require a mandatory licence under the Housing Act 2004.

On 26 August 2013 an additional licensing scheme was introduced within the PO1, PO4 and PO5 areas which means that smaller HMOs occupying three or more tenants belonging to two or more households also require a Licence.

Examples of a household for this purpose include a family, single person or co-habiting couple.

All landlords and property managing agents who let large houses in multiple occupation need an HMO licence from the council. HMO licences are valid for five years, after which they need to be renewed.

Application and renewal forms, as well as information about licence fees, guidelines and frequently asked questions (FAQs) are attached as six separate documents below.

Specific standards for licensable HMOs recommend the maximum number of occupiers who may share toilets, washing facilities and cooking facilities. These are more stringent than for singly occupied properties because sharing facilities can increase risks to health and safety and incur greater fire hazards. There is more information on this in the document below called 'HMO Licence - Further guidance for applicants'.

Landlords or managers should abide by certain standards applicable to HMOs. For example, a manager has a duty to ensure the property is maintained in a good condition, that the water, gas and electricity supplies are maintained, the common areas are kept clean and in good repair, the living accommodation is maintained and arrangements are made for the storage of refuse. Residents are also required not to hamper or frustrate the manager from carrying out these responsibilities.


We have summarised these standards below in the document called 'Summary of manager & occupier responsibilities'.

The occupation limit for a domestic dwelling is assessed against two standards set out in the Housing Act 1985, based on the number and sizes of the rooms available - more information can be found in the document below called 'Summary of room & space standards'.


The occupancy standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation are more stringent than for singly occupied dwellings because of the increased risk to health and safety arising from the sharing of facilities and greater fire hazards.


The standards contain minimum sizes of bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens and the maximum number of people that can share them. See 'Summary of room & space standards' document below. 

We advise on standards, issue HMO licences and take action if necessary. Information on the guidelines and standards we follow before licensing houses in multiple occupancy are below. We take action to deal with any hazards that might present a risk to the occupants. Because sharing kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and communal areas (such as hallways, stairs and landings) frequently leads to problems, the council applies the Housing Health And Safety Rating System to assess the seriousness of any shortages in areas such as:


  • inadequate toilet and personal washing facilities
  • inadequate food preparation facilities
  • overcrowding, dampness
  • inadequate heating and excessive cold
  • electrical hazards
  • inadequate fire safety

For more information, email Housing Standards at


For information on HMO licensing, phone 023 9284 1659, for housing needs and advice call 023 9268 8369 or write to Housing Standards, Portsmouth City Council civic offices, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, PO1 2AZ. 


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