County council vows to tighten controls on HMOs

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Northumberland County Council is to tighten controls on homes in multiple occupation (HMO).

HMOs are properties where the occupants do not form a single family and are typically houses divided into bedsits with shared facilities.

To be a licensable HMO there has to be five or more persons living as more than one family at the property.

At the moment, only HMOs with three or more stories are required to have a licence from the council.

But from October 1, the licensing regime will be expanded to cover all HMOs, irrespective of how many stories they contain.

After this date, any properties which are not correctly licensed may be subject to legal penalties, including unlimited fines and rent repayment orders.

The licenses issued by the council protect the safety and wellbeing of tenants by setting minimum standards for facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms, as well as safety features, such as fire alarms.

Licensed HMOs in Northumberland are inspected annually by the council.

Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing at the council, said: “The changes in the licensing scheme will mean a significant move forward in protecting some of the most vulnerable individuals in the housing market.

“The council is keen to work with both landlords and tenants to ensure everyone is ready for the changes.”

For information on the types of properties that can qualify as HMOs, and details of licensing requirements, visit

If you think that the property you own or live at could come under the new licensing requirements, contact the council’s Housing and Public Protection Service on 01670 623870 or email