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Houses in Multiple Occupation

Houses in multiple occupation (the only or principal residence of three or more persons from three or more families) are required to be licensed by our Council

Mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) was introduced in 2000. A licence is required for every house or flat where three or more people live who are not all members of one family. The house must be their only or main home.

Flats or bedsits which are otherwise separate are considered part of one house if they share cooking, washing or toilet facilities. Resident landlords and members of their family living with them are not counted in calculating the number of occupants, so they only need a licence if they have three or more tenants living with them.

The owner of the house is responsible for obtaining an HMO licence from the local authority. Before awarding a licence, the authority will make sure that acceptable standards are met in three categories.

  • Fit and proper person - the landlord, and any agent managing the property, must be considered a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The local authority will decide this based on individual circumstances.
  • Tenancy management - ensuring there are proper tenancy agreements which set out the rights and responsibilities of the tenants and the landlord. This should prevent exploitation or harassment of tenants, and should also help in taking action if tenants' behaviour causes any nuisance to neighbours.
  • Physical conditions - including space, facilities for cooking and washing, and safety of the building.

The local authority sets the standards required and also sets the fees charged for a licence application.

pdf icon Download the Housing in Multiple Occupation Application Form [690kb]

pdf icon Download the Housing in Multiple Occupation Site Notice of Application Form [21kb]

Guide for Landlords sets out more details of the scheme, the licence application process and the kind of standards required. There are also leaflets for tenants and for neighbours of HMOs.

HMOs are now covered by fire safety legislation. For more information visit the FireLaw website.

Provisions to replace the current HMO licensing legislation and bring it more into line with other housing legislation are included in Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 and will come into force on 31 August 2011. Updated guidance for local authorities to support this new regime was consulted on in early 2011, and a final version should be available soon after the implementation date.

If you are not sure whether you need an HMO licence for your property, you should contact the local authority for advice on 01387 273164.


A person needs a licence if they give permission for a house to be occupied as an HMO. The need for a licence does not depend on rent being paid, or on any formal tenancy arrangements being in place. The application for a licence must be made by the owner, even if the property is leased to or managed by another person or organisation.

Are there any exemptions from licensing?

The following property classes may be exempt from HMO licensing:

  • Properties where all the occupants (or at least one member of each family) are owners.
  • Properties owned by communal groups, established as a co-operative housing association, the management of which is undertaken by general meeting.
  • Properties occupied by members of a religious order.
  • Accommodation provided as a registered service with the Care Commission as:

    1. A care home service
    2. An independent health care service
    3. A school care accommodation service, or
    4. A secure accommodation service.

For these categories, the Care Commission sets and monitors standards for the accommodation in which the service is provided, as well as the service itself. In other categories, the Care Commission only regulates the service provided, and the accommodation is not exempt from HMO licensing.

How are property managers or letting agents affected by licensing?

Letting agents or property managers should check that their clients are licensed where necessary. It is a criminal offence for anyone to act as an agent for an unlicensed owner of a licensable HMO, by doing anything "which directly permits or facilitates the occupation of that house" as an HMO.

What sanctions are there for operating an HMO without a licence?

It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence. The maximum fine is £50,000. If you are not sure whether you need an HMO licence for your property, you should contact the local authority for advice on 01387 273161

Related Information

Contact Details


HMO Licensing and Landlord Registration

Municipal Chambers
Buccleuch Street

Tel: 01387 273164
Email this contact

HMO Licensing and Landlord Registration

Ailsa House
Sun Street

Tel: 01776 888411
Email this contact

Contact Dumfries and Galloway Council T: 030 33 33 3000

Council Offices
English Street

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