HMO & Housing Act Prosecutions

HMO & Housing Act Prosecutions

Are you being prosecuted for an HMO violation?

If you own or run an HMO, it is essential to seek legal advice if you are threatened with an investigation.

What is an HMO?

HMO stands for House in Multiple Occupation. All HMOs must be licensed in compliance with the mandatory scheme which applies nationally to any three-storey property occupied by at least five persons, where the occupants live in two or more single households.

You could face criminal charges if, for example, you rent out a three-storey property to five or more individuals who are not related and live in separate households.

Free Initial Discussion

For a no-obligation discussion, call our specialist Housing Law Solicitors on 01642 266 554, email us at or use our contact form, and we will call you back.

What Types of HMO and Housing Act Offences Are They?

HMO and Housing Act offences cover a range of violations related to the management and condition of rental properties. Landlords can find themselves in violation of three common offences:

1. Breaching Management Regulations

Landlords must follow strict regulations for managing an HMO established by the Management of HMOs (England) Regulations 2006. These regulations are to implement safety measures such as fire safety precautions; uphold the water supply and drainage; provide and maintain gas and electricity services; ensure the upkeep of common areas and living accommodations; and furnish waste disposal facilities.

2. Statutory Overcrowding

Statutory overcrowding is governed by the Housing Act 1985, which outlines the legal occupancy limited for rental properties. To establish if a house is overcrowded there are two key standards:

The Space Standard

This standard involves a calculation based on the number of occupants per room and the floor area of those rooms.

The Room Standard

This standard is if two people of the opposite sex, who are not in a relationship, are sleeping in the same room. This excludes children under the age of 10.

3. Licensing Scheme Offences

If you own a large HMO, you are required to be registered and have a licence from the local authorities. When granting the licence, an officer will visit and access the property to ensure it meets the housing standards.

If you do not have an HMO license you can be prosecuted and face fines as it is a criminal offence. The court may bar you from registering new HMOs as well. 

What are the Penalties for HMO Offences?

The penalties for HMO (Home in Multiple Occupation) offences can vary based on the severity of the violation and the specific regulations breached. Some potential penalties are:

  1. Civil Penalties: Local authorities can impose civil penalties for HMO offences. The amount may vary but is typically a significant fine.
  2. Criminal Prosecution: Serious breaches can lead to criminal prosecution. If found guilty, landlords may face fines, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.
  3. Rent Repayment Orders: Tenants living in an HMO that is found to be operating without the required license may apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO). This order could require the landlord to repay up to 12 months’ rent to the tenants.
  4. Prohibition Orders: Local authorities have the power to issue Prohibition Orders, preventing landlords from renting out an HMO until they address the identified issues.
  5. Management Orders: In cases of severe mismanagement, a local authority can issue a Management Order, transferring control of the property to another individual or organisation.

How Does a Local Authority Decide on the Level of a Civil Penalty?

Each local authority is responsible for creating its own policy to determine the level of a civil penalty, and these policies may vary in content and emphasis. However, they generally include considerations such as:

  1. Severity of the Offence: Assessing how serious the HMO offence is.
  2. Culpability and Track Record: Examining the responsibility and past conduct of the offender.
  3. Harm to the Tenant: Evaluating the impact of the offence on the tenant.
  4. Punishment of the Offender: Considering the appropriate level of punishment for the offender.
  5. Deterrence: Aiming to prevent the offender from repeating the offence and deterring others.
  6. Financial Benefit: Removing any financial gains obtained by the offender due to the offence.

How Can Watson Woodhouse Help?

We are here to help.

Call us for a FREE and confidential consultation with a specialist solicitor on 01642 266 554 or email our housing disrepair team at

Watson Woodhouse Solicitors provides support to clients throughout England and Wales.

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