If you are a landlord and let a property out to several tenants who are not members of the same family, it may very well be classed as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). If both of the following apply, it is an HMO:
- At least 3 tenants live there, forming more than one household.
- Toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities are shared.
A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together. It includes people who are married or living together, and people in same-sex relationships.
In addition, your house will need a licence from the local authority if it is occupied by more than five people. Your local council must also carry out an HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) risk assessment on your HMO within five years of receiving a licence application. If the housing inspector finds any unacceptable risks, he or she will advise you, and you will need to carry out any required moderations or alterations.
You must also advise the council if you plan to make any changes to your HMO, your tenants make any changes, or the tenants circumstances change – for example, having a child.
One of the most important considerations as a landlord of an HMO is fire safety. An essential part of fire safety in an HMO is the installation of fire doors. You need to ensure that all escape routes from the property are protected from fire, and the chief way of doing so is by using fire doors.
In a typical house which has been converted, the escape route would be out of the bedroom, down the stairs into the hall, and then out through the front or back door. Every property is different, of course, but in this example the kitchen would be avoided. Since the kitchen is a high-risk fire area, it would need to be separated by a fire door or doors in order to protect the escape route.
All of the bedrooms should also have fire doors and it might also be necessary to install one on a communal sitting room. The fire doors should also be fitted with intumescent strips. These are placed around the door frames and are chemically treated so that they expand under heat and seal the gap to contain any fire.
All the fire doors should also have door closers fitted, and these must be strong enough to overcome the resistance of any latch or sealing system, and must be able to close the door from any angle. Building users may hold fire doors open with a wedge or a fire extinguisher, and this is actually illegal. However, the doors can be held open with fire door retainers (hold-open devices) as they will release the fire door in the event of a fire and allow the door closers to close it.
All fire doors should also have thumb turn locks. In the event of a fire, if a key is used, it may not be to hand, and this could mean severe delay in escaping. Thumb turn locks overcome this problem.
In addition, there should be fire alarms installed, in corridors, in communal areas and in some instances bedrooms. In the above you need to install smoke detectors, while in the kitchen you need to have a heat detector. These are best when wired to the mains, and ideally they should all be inter-connected so that if one goes off they all go off.
You may also need to consider upgrading the fire alarm system to a panel system, depending upon the size of the HMO. This decision will depend on the number of rooms, the number of bedroom spaces, and the number of occupiers.
At UK-FireRisk Assessments we can carry out a fire risk assessment of your HMO for you and provide you with a fire risk assessment report so that you will easily be able to see what steps you need to take, if any, in order to ensure that your HMO is compliant with all the regulations.