Houses in Multiple Occupation

Who has to pay the Council Tax?

There is one Council Tax bill for each property, whether it is a house, bungalow, flat, mobile home or houseboat, and whether or not it is owned or rented. In most cases, the person who has to pay the Council Tax is the first person who appears in the following list who is aged 18 or over and lives in the property as their main home:

- A resident freeholder
- A resident leaseholder
- A resident statutory or secure tenant
- An occupier under a licence
- Anyone else aged over 18 living in the property
- If no-one aged over 18 lives in the property, Council Tax liability transfers to the owner. In this situation, the owner is treated as the freeholder or leaseholder with a term of six months or more.

Are the residents always liable?

No, in certain cases, it is the owner, not the residents, who has to pay the Council Tax. The properties this applies to are as follows:

- Residential care homes and hostels
- Religious communities such as monasteries and convents
- Houses in multiple occupation
- A property with residents in domestic service
- The home of a minister of religion
- Asylum seekers housed under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

What is the definition of a HMO category property?

For Council Tax purposes a HMO is a property which:

a) was originally constructed or subsequently adapted for occupation by people who are not part of a single household, or
b) is lived in by a person who, or by two or more persons each of whom either:

i) is a tenant of, or has a license to occupy, only part of the dwelling,or
ii) has a license to occupy, but is not liable (whether alone or jointly with other people) to pay rent or a license fee in respect of, the dwelling as a whole.
 
Therefore, the decision as to whether a dwelling is to be treated as a HMO relies upon the satisfaction of either of the above tests, that is, either the purpose for which the building was constructed or adapted, or the conditions as to the terms of the tenancy or license of the occupants.  Although each case is considered on its own merits, HMO are generally properties that are rented out as bedsits to individuals, rather than a family, with the residents sharing communal areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
 
For HMO, the owner is treated as the person who has a freehold interest in the whole of the property, or the leasehold interest if a lease has been granted.

What details will be taken into account when deciding whether or not a property is a HMO?

A number of factors will be considered, such as:

- What is the internal layout of the property? (please note that a visit will be required)
- Was the property originally adapted to be occupied by people who are not part of the same household?
- Have any rooms been adapted from their original use so that they can be occupied by a number of individuals, rather than a family?
- Does the tenant pay rent for a room and shared facilities only?
- If one or more tenants leave, is the share of the rent increased for remaining occupant(s)?
- Can the tenant lock their room door when they leave?
- Are there shared kitchen and bathroom facilities?
- Who pays the utility bills?
- What information about the property is held by other teams in the Council?

What happens if the property is deemed to be a HMO?

The owner will be sent a letter to confirm that they have been held responsible for the Council Tax at the property. A bill will also be issued to show the payments required and the due dates.

What are my rights if I disagree with the Council’s decision to make me responsible for paying the Council Tax?

In the first instance, please write to the Council, giving your reasons why you think you should not be the person to pay for the Council Tax. Please address your letter to Income and Debt Management, clearly marking that it is an appeal.  The Council then has two months to answer.  If you are still not satisfied, you can then appeal to the Valuation Tribunal, whose details will be given to you, but this must be within two months of the date of the Council’s response.

Please note that the Council Tax must still be paid pending any appeal.