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Multiple Occupancy

From 31 August 2011 licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) operates under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, part 5.

An HMO (Houses in Multiple occupation) licence is required for the operation of living accommodation as an HMO. The application for a licence must be made by the owner of the living accommodation. Living accommodation is an HMO within the meaning of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 if it is:

  • occupied by three of more persons from three or more families; and
  • occupied by them as their only or main residence or in some other manner specified by the Scottish Ministers by order; and
  • either a house, premises or a group of premises owned by the same person with shared basic amenities, or some other type of accommodation specified by the Scottish Ministers by order.

The purpose of HMO licensing is to achieve and maintain high standards of service in this part of the private rented sector by ensuring that the HMO owner or their agent is a fit and proper person, and ensure the suitability of accommodation.

Before it formally considers an HMO application, the local authority has the discretionary power to refuse to consider it, if it considers that occupation of the accommodation as an HMO would be a breach of planning control.

In considering the application the local authority has to satisfy itself:

  • that the applicant, and their agent, is a fit and proper person to operate an HMO. The local authority must have regard to section 85 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended
  • that neither the applicant nor the agent is disqualified from holding a licence or acting as agent for a licence holder (by court order under section 157 of the 2006 Act).

If the authority is not so satisfied, the authority must refuse to grant the licence.

The authority must also satisfy itself:

  • That the property is suitable for use as an HMO or could be made so by including conditions in the licence.

If the authority is not so satisfied, the authority has no power to grant the licence.

The authority may refuse to grant an HMO licence if it considers that there is, or that the grant of the licence would result in, overprovision of HMOs in the locality.

The local authority sets the standards required and also sets the fees charged for a licence application. If you have questions about HMO licensing in your area, please contact your local authority.

Scottish Ministers have issued guidance to local authorities (PDF version). Guidance is also available on the transitional arrangements between the previous regime under The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the regime under Part 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. 

Fire Safety

HMOs are now covered by fire safety legislation. Visit the FireLaw website for more information.


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