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Houses in multiple occupation

This page provides an overview of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) within Sunderland.

What are HMOs?

Houses in multiple occupation (known as HMOs) are classed as this if:

  • There are three or more tenants
  • There are two or more households living there, i.e. the occupants are not related to each other
  • The tenants share some basic amenities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
  • The property is the only or main residence for all the occupants
  • The property is not used for any other purpose
  • Rents are paid for occupation or there is some other form of consideration e.g. accommodation is provided as part of employment etc

There are other types of HMO and some exceptions to the definition above.  All HMOs must comply with the law.  More information on both of these things can be found in the 'legislation' section below.

Some regulations apply to all HMOs to ensure that tenants do not live in unsafe or overcrowded accommodation. 

Problems and complaints about HMOs

We will investigate concerns of poor housing conditions in HMOs and may take legal action against landlords if the problems are serious enough, further information can be found in our private sector housing enforcement policy.

You can report any housing condition issue using this form

You can report a complaint e.g. operating without a licence by calling 0191 5205551

Licences for HMOs

You must have a licence for a HMO if five or more people are living in two or more households within: 

  • a building
  • a converted flat
  • purpose built flats (with up to two flats in the block, and any of which are occupied as a HMO)

You may also need planning permission. If you require information about this please see our planning section.

Applying for an HMO Licence steps to follow

To apply for a new licence:

  • Read the HMO application guidance
  • Locate copies of the required documents for the property to upload with your application, please ensure that the correct documents are uploaded, and make sure that any measurements are in the correct format
  • Have a credit or debit card to hand, as you will need to pay a fee
  • It can take up to 60 minutes to complete (do not worry if you are unable to complete in one go, as you can save and return to it later)
  • If your application is successful the HMO licence holder, their address and appointed manager and address (if applicable) will be displayed in the HMO public register which is held at City Hall and can be inspected by members of the public by appointment. Please see the 'Information on current HMOs' section below for details about appointments

Please note that a HMO licence is non-transferable. Should a property which had an existing license be sold, the new owner or most appropriate person will need to make a "New" application to the Council to have a licence. The licence cannot be renewed. Licence holders can make notification to the Council to arrange for new managers of the HMO to be appointed, provided the notification is in writing, compliant with any condition imposed by the current hmo licence and the proposed new manager has successfully completed the fit and proper persons notification form.

Apply for a HMO licence

Renew an existing licence

You will need to input the reference number which was provided in your renewal letter inviting you to renew your licence. You can only renew a licence prior to the expiry of the licence. If the licence has expired and you have failed to renew the licence you need to apply for a HMO licence. It is the licence holders responsibility to ensure that a licence is renewed in advance of it expiry and that the application is valid.

Please note that a HMO licence is non-transferable. Should a property which had an existing license be sold, the new owner or most appropriate person will need to make a "New" application to the Council to have a licence. The licence cannot be renewed. Licence holders can make notification to the Council to arrange for new managers of the HMO to be appointed, provided the notification is in writing, compliant with any condition imposed by the current hmo licence and the proposed new manager has successfully completed the fit and proper persons notification form.

Renew a HMO licence

HMO Licensing Privacy Notice

Sunderland City Council complies with the Data Protection Act and UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as a Data Controller. The HMO Licensing Privacy Notice explains how personal information is going to be used, what for, who it will be shared with and why.

The following list of eight items expand to give you further information about HMO licencing:

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