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Buying an HMO

Use this page to find out what you need to do if you have purchased an existing HMO, or if you have purchased a property and intend to turn it into an HMO.

Select a topic below to find out more about the steps you need to take at each stage of the purchase process.

If you are a potential buyer

We are unable to issue an HMO licence to any person or company that is not in full control of the premises, including potential buyers.

We regularly receive queries from potential purchasers of licensable HMOs and solicitors, as mortgage companies often state that they will not release funds until we issue an HMO licence.

While we cannot grant licences to potential buyers before they own the property, we will almost certainly grant an HMO licence providing all of the following criteria are met:

  • the property is in full control of the person or company applying for the licence
  • the property requires a licence
  • the property is reasonably suitable for occupation for a maximum number of households or persons
  • we receive a valid application form
  • the proposed licence holder is a fit and proper person and is the most appropriate person to be the licence holder
  • management arrangements are satisfactory

Our HMO licence application page has more detail on the information you will need to supply as part of an application once your purchase is completed.

If an HMO sale has completed

If you have purchased a property that is already occupied as an HMO on the date a sale is completed, you need to submit a valid HMO licence application by law. 

As long as the application is valid and you have paid the required licensing fee, then your legal obligations will have been fulfilled and the property can continue to be rented out until we issue your licence.

Planning permission

Planning permission and HMO licensing are two separate requirements. Buying a property that has a HMO licence does not confirm that the correct planning permission is in place to use the property as an HMO, and you may need to apply for planning permission.

In the city of Bath, you will need to make a planning application if you want to convert a property such as a family home (use class C3) into an HMO (C4 use class). Planning permission may not be granted for this change of use if the property is located in an area with a high concentration of HMOs.

We recently revised our Houses in Multiple Occupation SPD. Under the new requirements, we would not grant planning permission for a new or intensified HMO where HMO properties represent 10% or more of households within a 100-metre radius of the application property.

We will also not grant planning permission if the proposed HMO would cause a C3 home to be 'sandwiched' between two HMOs.

A property which is currently used as an HMO (use class C4) can change use to a single-household home (C3 use class) without planning permission. However, If you want to convert the property back into an HMO, you would need to reapply for planning permission.

HMO standards, inspections and common issues

While a licensed HMO you have purchased may have been inspected in the past, the property may still require work to bring it up to current standards. You cannot rely on the information provided by the previous applicant, as standards and risks change over time.

There are a number of common issues that you may need to resolve:

Common HMO issues
Issue type Problem detail Action you should take
Small rooms Bedrooms, living room or kitchen is too small for the number of occupants Potentially reduce occupancy or make structural changes to meet minimum standards. Contact Housing Services before taking any action.
Locks Internal key locks on bedroom or final exit door delaying escape in the event of an emergency. Replace with thumb-style turn locks.
Inner bedrooms A bedroom is located off another room, meaning a fire in the outer room will prevent escape from the bedroom. A full 30 minute fire door will be required, with smoke and heat seals and a self-closing device. A compliant escape window is also essential and mains wired interlinked smoke alarms are needed in both the inner and outer room.
Fire doors Faulty internal doors; self-closing devices not working or removed, or missing glazed panels in doors and partitions. Ensure internal doors are close fitting, sound, conventional doors. Fire doors may be required. Properties with 3 or more floors will need self-closing doors. Normal glazing is not acceptable.
Fire separation Insufficient separation between means of escape and basements. Basements should have smoke or heat alarms installed and walls and ceilings should be plasterboard and skim or equivalent.
Fire alarms Not working or insufficient coverage

Ensure they are regularly tested and cover (as a minimum) the hallway, landing, living room and kitchen. Refer to the LaCORS guidance for details.

Key, card or coin meters are not permitted for fire alarm power supply, to ensure there is no interruption.

Fire blanket Not correctly positioned Supply a fire blanket to every kitchen. These should be wall mounted adjacent to the kitchen door and nearer the door than the cooker.
Damp, mould and ventilation Bedrooms without windows direct to the outside; bathrooms without correct ventilation and heating; damp basements Ensure all bedrooms should have direct and secure means for ventilation. Bathrooms must have ventilation and heating. Habitable basements must be dry, appropriately converted with sufficient heating and ventilation.
Items blocking escape routes Wardrobes and shelves, personal items and placement of white goods in the means of escape. Remove all items and keep clear. There are some exceptions where a wardrobe may be permitted as ancillary storage to a small bedroom.
Gardens and yards Accumulations including rubbish and waste, slippery decking, unkempt gardens and overgrown foliage. Ensure outside areas are maintained regularly and kept in good condition. It is the property manager's responsibility to do this.
Landlord or manager details Contact details not displayed Display the contact detail for the property manager in a prominent position in the property

These details are a guide to the common issues officers find and is not definitive. Every property is different so may require more or less work.

Always refer to our licensing standards for full details.