Licences - homes in multiple occupancy
Licensing Services in partnership with other council services and Lothian and Borders Police and Fire Service administers the licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). HMO's cover residential accommodation such as shared flats and houses, hostels and halls of residence.
The licences are issued under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 . This is a mandatory licence and if you operate an HMO without a licence, you are breaking the law.
What qualifies as a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)
An HMO is any rented property which is the main home for three or more people who are from three or more different families - that is, they are not closely related to each other, married or living as a couple. It can sometimes be quite complicated to work out when a licence is needed. If you want help in working out whether the law applies to you or your house, then please contact Environmental Health on 01506 252500 for advice. Please remember that if you need a licence but do not get one, then you are breaking the law and could be prosecuted.
Fees for all HMO Licence applications are variable and the fee is dependant on the number of persons that reside within the property.
Fees for a licence application and renewal received before 1 April 2013 rate is based on an application fee of £443.00 plus the additional sum shown below based on the number of persons that reside at the property:
Number of Residents Additional Sum
Fees for a licence application and renewal received after 1 April 2013:
Number of Residents Fee
Additional information of fees may be found on the application form.
If you own a property which is rented out as an HMO, then you must get a licence from West Lothian Council.
Frequently Asked Questions
Click a question to see the answer.
There are three main classes of property that are exempt from the HMO licensing scheme. 1) Religious communities are exempt because of their spiritual and voluntary nature. 2) Properties where each occupant, or at least one member of each occupying family, has a heritable right of ownership are exempt, as are those owned by communal groups. 3) Accommodation provided as part of a service registered with the Care Commission as: A care home service, an independent health care service, a school care accommodation service, a secure accommodation service.
It is a criminal offence to operate an HMO without a licence. The maximum penalty is level 5 (currently £5000).
Generally no. The owner must obtain a licence before the HMO is occupied.
A licensing authority can suspend a licence if in their opinion: 1) The licence-holder is no longer a fit and proper person to hold the licence; 2) The HMO is causing or is likely to cause undue public nuisance or a threat to public order or safety; 3) The licensing conditions have been breached. The authority can take into account the behaviour of people in or around the HMO. In terms of public order or safety this could include people demonstrating against the HMO or someone living there, as well as actions by the residents or their visitors.
Contact Environmental Health on 01506 775400 and give their details
An HMO licence may be granted for a period of up to three years. An application for renewal must be made before the end of the licence period, and goes through the same process as for the initial application, including the opportunity for objections to be made.
The licensing authority must make a decision within 12 months of receiving an application for a licence, to allow you time to make physical changes to the property if necessary.
Contact Environmental Health on 01506 775400 and we will investigate for you.
Contact Environmental Health on 01506 775400, and we will investigate for you.
The owner submits their HMO application to the licensing authority, together with the appropriate fee. The owner must also display a notice outside the property for 21 days, informing the public of the application and how to submit objections. (Women's refuges are exempt from this requirement, but the local authority may notify appropriate neighbours by letter.) The licensing authority has to satisfy itself: That the applicant, and any manager of the HMO, is a fit and proper person to hold a licence. That the property is suitable for use as an HMO, for the proposed number of people. Officers of the licensing authority and the fire authority will visit the property to check the physical standards and facilities within the property. The applicant will be required to provide evidence of appropriate management standards, such as forms of lease, gas safety records, electrical appliance testing records and appropriate insurance documents. Officers of the licensing authority will tell the applicant what changes (if any) need to be made before the property will be considered suitable to be a licensed HMO.
A house is an HMO if it is the only or principal residence of three or more qualifying people from three or more families. In this context, 'house' includes any part of a building occupied as a separate dwelling. The legislation covers not only ordinary houses, flats and bedsits, but all residential accommodation, including hostels, student halls of residence, staff accommodation in hotels or hospitals, and so on. Houses within a building which, although otherwise separate, share use of a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities, are taken to form part of a single house.
A licence may be revoked by the sheriff if a licence-holder is convicted of a relevant offence in relation to the licence. The relevant offences deal with breach of licensing conditions, preventing the inspection of the HMO or of relevant records, and failing to obtain permission for or inform the licensing authority of material changes. All these offences are punishable by fines, but the sheriff may also decide to revoke the licence, and may disqualify the licence-holder from holding a licence for up to 5 years.
A person needs a licence if they give permission for a house to be occupied as an HMO (i.e. occupied by 3 or more unrelated non-dependant adults). Only the owner of a house can give such permission. The application for a licence must therefore be made by the owner, even if the property is leased to or managed by another person or organisation.