Tackling illegitimate HMO's

Tackling Illegitimate HMOs: An Essential Guide for UK Landlords


In the UK rental market, we face a significant hurdle – the rising problem of illegitimate HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation). These are unlicensed properties that often compromise on tenants’ living standards. This guide will help you identify these rogue operations and equip you to steer clear of them. Being a landlord isn’t just a business venture, it’s also a responsibility to provide safe and comfortable homes for those who reside in your properties.

1. Identifying Illegitimate HMOs

Illegitimate HMOs usually evade standard regulations and fail to meet minimum living standards. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Overcrowding beyond legal limits
  • Insufficient basic amenities
  • Constant tenant complaints

2. Understanding Licensing Regulations

Under the UK’s Housing Act 2004, HMOs that house five or more people from more than one household are legally required to have a license. Non-compliance is a criminal offence that could lead to substantial fines or even a prohibition on renting properties.

3. Being Informed and Compliant

You, as a landlord, are responsible for being up-to-date with local HMO licensing requirements. These rules can vary across local authorities, so understanding them will keep you from inadvertently falling into illegal HMO practices.

4. Prioritising Property Maintenance

Your property should comply with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) standards. This includes:

  • Implementing adequate fire safety measures
  • Installing proper heating systems
  • Providing sufficient sanitary facilities

By offering a safe, well-maintained home, you’ll attract and retain responsible tenants, while also staying within the law.

5. Leveraging Professional Advice

Consider seeking advice from professional organisations like the National Landlords Association (NRLA) or your local council’s housing department. Their guidance can be instrumental in navigating the complex world of HMO licensing.

6. Reporting Illegitimate HMOs

If you encounter an illegitimate HMO, it’s crucial to report it to your local council’s housing department. By doing so, you contribute to protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords and preserving the integrity of the UK rental market.


In the ever-evolving UK rental market, understanding and avoiding illegitimate HMOs is vital for landlords. Not only does it protect your investment and reputation, but it also ensures the welfare of your tenants, contributing to a healthier and more ethical rental market.

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