Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are rental properties that are occupied by more than two people who form distinct separate households and share basic facilities such as the kitchen or bathroom. All housing, whether rented or otherwise, has to be free of major health and safety hazards, but HMOs are recognised as presenting some extra risks, and have to go that bit further, especially with regard to fire safety.

By law a property that is three (or more) storeys high, containing five or more persons who form two or more households requires a mandatory HMO licence. Additionally, where a group of three or more people who are not all members of the same family are living in the same building in Harlow, require an additional HMO licence. Since April 2015 all other HMOs must also be licensed.

Related information

It is also advised that you check if you require Planning Permission, Building Regulations Approval and Covenant Consent for the works proposed.

Visit our Planning, Building Control and Covenant Control pages for further information.


Where applying for a licence is avoided until found by Council investigation this will attract a charge of £218. It is also an offence to operate an unlicensed HMO: this can attract a fine of up to £20,000. The Council can in certain cases make a Management Order and take over the management of the property. The owner will not have access to the property and the rent will be collected by the Council. Where owners have been prosecuted tenants can claim back any rent they have paid to the landlord whilst the property was not licensed.

The Council inspects HMOs on the basis of risk rating. HMOs must meet the appropriate standards for fire precautions and facilities for the number of occupants. Particularly important fire safety requirements are:

  • A hard-wired interlinked fire alarm system is present
  • The underside of the main staircase is lined to provide a 30 minute resistance to fire
  • Fire doors providing 30 minute resistance to fire are fitted to all bedrooms and the kitchen leading onto the escape route

Application Evaluation Process

Licences will not be granted unless

  • the house is or can be made suitable for multiple occupation
  • the applicant is a fit and proper person and the most appropriate person to hold the licence
  • the proposed manager has control of the house, and is a fit and proper person to be the manager
  • the management arrangements are satisfactory

How to apply

The following provides guidance on the application process:

The following is important information on the Council's standards for licensed HMOs:

HMO Licences Public Registers

Registers of HMOs licences in Harlow: 

These registers are also available for inspection at Harlow Council Civic Centre, please contact Environmental Health on 01279 446111 or by email: to make an appointment.

Will Tacit Consent Apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact it:

Failed Application Redress

Please contact us in the first instance. You may appeal to a residential property tribunal. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.

Licence Holder Redress

Please contact us in the first instance. You may appeal to a residential property tribunal regarding conditions attached to a licence or any decision to vary or revoke a licence. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the decision being made.

Consumer Complaint

If a licence is granted and you wish to appeal against it being granted you may do so to a residential property tribunal within 28 days of the decision being made.