Search site

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Licence

In terms of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 licences are required for all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The HMO licensing scheme is administered by the Council's Licensing Team. The Team is able to provide general guidance on the scheme but cannot assist you to complete your application form or provide legal advice on whether a licence is required. You should seek legal advice from a solicitor or advice centre if you are unsure as to whether your premises require a licence.

Which HMOs require a licence from the Council?

In terms of section 125 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, HMO means any living accommodation i.e.

  • house; or
  • premises or group of premises (or, in either case, part thereof) owned by the same person and its occupants share one or more of the basic amenities (a toilet; personal washing facilities; and facilities for the preparation or provision of cooked food) with each other 
  • occupied by 3 or more persons, who are not all members of the same family or of one or other of two families, as their only or main residence; or
  • which is of such type, or which is occupied in such manner, as the Scottish Ministers may by order specify.

In terms of section 125 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006:

  • living accommodation occupied during term time by a person undertaking a full-time course of further or higher education is, at all times during that person's residence, to be treated as being that person's only or main residence
  • a patient in a health service hospital (within the meaning of section 108(1) of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 is not to be treated as occupying the hospital
  • a person is not to be treated as sharing a basic amenity if the living accommodation concerned has more than one of any such amenity and the person has exclusive use of at least one of them

In terms of section 126 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, a number of specific categories of HMO are exempt from the requirement to be licensed.

In terms of section 154 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, the owner of an HMO which requires to be licensed commits an offence if the HMO is not so licensed (unless the owner has a reasonable excuse for not holding an HMO licence).

How do you apply for a licence?

Only the owner of the property can apply for an HMO licence.

If you want to apply for a licence you must submit an application form along with the required documents and the appropriate fee.

Application forms which have guidance notes attached to them and a list of fees are available from the Related Documents section of this page. You should read the guidance notes carefully before completing your application form.

There are two separate application forms. One is for persons applying for a licence as an individual and the other is to be completed by applicants who are companies, partnership or organisations. 

How much are the application fees?

Fees for HMO Licence applications are variable and are based on the number of persons resident in the property to be licensed, more information regarding pdf icon current licensing fees [66kb].

What is meant by 'Preliminary refusal: breach of planning control'

In terms of section 129A of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, the Council may, within 21 days of an application for an HMO licence, refuse to consider the application if it considers that occupation of the living accommodation concerned as an HMO would constitute breach of planning control for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 by virtue of section 123(a) or (b) of that Act.  Notice of such a decision must be served on the applicant within 7 days of the date of the decision and the notice must specify that no fee may be charged in respect of a further application for an HMO licence in relation to the living accommodation concerned made within 28 days of the applicant subsequently obtaining:

  • planning permission under Part 3; or
  • a certificate of lawfulness of use or development under section 150 or 151 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.
Will my application be vetted?

In terms of paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, the Council may make such inquiries about an HMO application as the Council thinks fit.  The Council must make a report of any matter arising from any such inquiries which the Council considers relevant to the determination of the application.

All applications are copied to the Council's advisors who can recommend that conditions in addition to the standard conditions detailed on this page are attached to the licence when granted. If you do not want to accept any recommended conditions then the application would be referred to the Licensing Committee for a decision to be made regarding which conditions will apply to your licence. Mandatory background checks will be carried out on all applicants by Police Scotland and applicants' details will be retained on computer.

You will be contacted once vetting is complete.

How will my application be decided?

HMO proprieties must meet a particular standard. You should refer to the Government guidance in this respect which is contained in the Related Documents section of this page. The council must be satisfied that the premises are suitable for use as an HMO and site visits will be undertaken by advisors before reports are prepared for the council. Applications which do not attract any representations can be granted by the Chief Solicitor under delegated powers provided that all reports received are satisfactory. All other applications require to be referred to the Licensing Committee for determination. You will be advised if your application is being referred to the Licensing Committee. The Committee meets on a monthly basis.

We have twelve months in which to determine your application.

How do you make a complaint about HMO licence holders?

The Licensing Team can advise if a property has an HMO licence. Complaints regarding licensed HMOs may be made to the Licensing Team. These should be made in writing by email or letter providing full details of the nature of the complaint and sent to the Licensing Team using the contact details box.

How do you make a complaint about unlicensed HMOs?

Complaints should be made to the council's Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT)

Email Address: snt@westlothian.gov.uk; Telephone: 01506 280000