A landlord’s guide to health and safety regulations in an HMO property

This article in our HMO series explains the key health and safety requirements that all HMO landlords must adhere to. This article contains helpful links to government resources and professional tips from Property Forum’s CEO (multi-millionaire HMO property developer) Nicholas Wallwork.

HMO health and safety requirements

If you’re subject to HMO licensing, then your local council will inspect your property and assess health and safety risks according to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Even if you don’t need a licence, the HMO management regulations mean you’re required to ensure your HMO is free of major hazards and safe for people to live in. So either way, the HHSRS represents best practice. You can always pay for a third-party assessor to come in and assess your property against the HHSRS.

Read more about the HHSRS here.

Regardless of whether you’re subject to licensing or not, any HMO owner should pay particular attention to fire safety, and gas and electric safety. Let’s look at these areas in turn.

Fire safety

Because you have more people living in the property, the risk of fire or harm is higher than in a normal residence. For example, tenants may have duplicate appliances (meaning there are more ignition sources), you have more tenants using the same escape routes, and there are usually more internal locks (i.e. on bedroom doors), which can impede escape.

Fire safety is assessed on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the size of your property, the number of storeys and number of people living there. For example, a large HMO may require emergency lighting, while a smaller HMO probably won’t. In general, though, the following fire safety measures are recommended:

• A fire alarm system, with alarms placed in all the bedrooms, communal areas and hallways. These alarms will need to be regularly tested and maintained.
• Locks on exit doors that can be opened without a key (thumb turn locks are ideal).
• Fire doors in the bedrooms and communal areas.
• Escape routes that are kept clear and free of obstruction. It’s also a good idea to clearly mark fire exits.
• Fire extinguishers in the hallways and a fire blanket in the kitchen.

Pro tip: Talk to your local HMO Enforcement Officer to get advice that’s tailored to your property and local authority requirements.

Gas and electric safety

You must have an annual gas safety check done on any gas appliances and related flues provided in the property – this includes your boilers, water heaters, gas fires and gas cookers with a flue. Inspections must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and you’ll need to send a copy of the annual gas safety check certificate every year to your local authority. You should display a copy in the house, too.

Likewise, you’ll need to have all fixed electrical installations (wiring, lighting, socket outlets, etc.) inspected every five years and obtain an electrical installation condition report (EICR). The inspection should be done by a qualified electrician and you can find one through the Registered Competent Person Electrical Register. You don’t need to send a copy of the EICR to the local council, but you should keep hold of it in case the council asks to see a copy.

Finally, any portable electrical appliances (like fridges, microwaves, etc.) supplied by you also need to be inspected regularly, meaning you should have portable appliance testing (PAT testing) done annually on all appliances.

You can use the catagory search menu at the top right of the page to see all other HMO articles in this series. You can also download our free HMO ebook (written by our CEO Nicholas Wallwork) and ask any questions in the HMO forum.


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