Criteria for HMO licensing

If you own or manage a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) you may need to obtain a licence for the property. It is a criminal offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence. Landlords who are caught can be heavily fined by the courts.

As of 1 October 2018, all HMOs with five or more occupants are subject to Mandatory HMO licensing. Your property qualifies for a Mandatory HMO if:

  • At least five occupants live there, forming more than one household
  • The occupants share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities

If you own or manage a purpose-built flat with five or more occupants situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats, it it is not subject to mandatory licensing.

However, any purpose-built flat in use as an HMO (three or more occupiers from two or more households) situated in one of the following wards will be subject to Additional HMO Licensing: Bevois, Bargate, Portswood and Swaythling.

Licences are normally valid for a period of five years, but we may issue a licence for a shorter length of time if there have been:

  • Management deficiencies
  • Delays on returning application paperwork
  • The need for works to be carried out to put the HMO into a satisfactory condition
  • Concerns as to the fit and proper status of relevant people

Before reducing the standard term of a licence, we will discuss our concerns with the applicant.

If your property qualifies as a Mandatory HMO, or you would like to check whether your property needs an HMO licence, you check our webpage on how to apply for an HMO licence.

For qualifying HMOs situated in purpose-built blocks, applications must be made using the downloadable PDF application form instead.

A list of costs can be found on our HMO licence fees page. If you have any queries please contact us.

Additional HMO licensing

1 October 2018

Southampton City Council introduced an additional HMO licensing scheme covering the wards of Bevois, Bargate, Portswood and Swaythling.

The scheme covers all HMOs in this area that are not covered by Mandatory HMO licensing. This includes all HMOs with three or four tenants and purpose-built flats with three or more occupants that are situated in a block comprising three or more self-contained flats.

These licences will expire on 30 September 2023 when this additional licensing designation ends.

20 October 2015

The additional licensing scheme covering the four wards of:

  • Shirley
  • Freemantle
  • Millbrook
  • Bassett

These licences expired on 19 October 2020. Unless your HMO has five or more occupiers you will not need to apply for a new licence.

If you own or manage a smaller HMO in these areas you are still responsible to ensure that the property meets safety and amenity standards, and you may still be subject to inspections and enforcement visits to check compliance with legal provisions.

There are links to our standards and all relevant legislation within the HMO web section but if you have any queries or require any advice on these matters, please contact us.

For more information, please read our HMO frequently asked questions.

Contact details


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Get in touch

  • Telephone: 023 8083 3006
  • Address: HMO Licensing Team, Regulatory Services, Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LY