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Tenants advised to check their shared rental is licensed HMO

A council is reminding prospective tenants about the importance of making sure their next shared rental is licensed as a house of multiple occupancy.

Belfast council says that under current regulations, all HMOs in the city area must be licensed by the council to help make sure they are safe, good quality and well managed. Since 2019, all landlords who operate an HMO must have a licence from their local council to continue renting it to multiple tenants, unless a temporary exemption notice is in effect.

Landlords must also have a valid licence for each individual HMO they own.


“If you’re thinking about a new rental with other people, whether as a student or otherwise, it’s important that you check that any potential options have been licensed as HMOs” says Councillor Gary McKeown, chair of Belfast council’s licensing committee. 

“Having a valid HMO licence means that the property you’re renting has been assessed by the council, with suitable facilities for the number of people living within it. It is important that people have safe, secure and comfortable accommodation and the licensing process for HMOs helps ensure that those properties which fall into this category meet certain criteria and that landlords fulfil their obligations to their tenants. And, if they don’t, it provides a way to report this.

“Checking if a property is licensed is easy and free to do – just visit the council’s website at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/nihmo and enter the address in the HMO licence register.”

Local councils assumed responsibility for the licensing of HMOs in 2019 when the Houses in Multiple Occupation Act (NI) 2016 came into effect. Belfast council now administers the regulation of HMOs on behalf of all 11 councils in the city area.

Under the regulations, landlords who already hold an HMO licence must re-apply before their existing licence expires. If they don’t, it will be treated as a new application when it is comes before elected members for consideration at the council’s licensing committee.

Councils also have the option of including additional conditions when granting an HMO licence. They are responsible for making sure any conditions are met during the lifetime of an HMO licence and have powers to take enforcement action in specific circumstances. 

“The council has clearly set out the process involved in deciding whether to grant a licence - including assessing the proposed management arrangements for a property, looking at how many HMOs are already in place in an area to prevent over-provision and making sure the relevant building control and planning approvals are in place – and council officers have also developed guidance to help landlords with managing anti-social behaviour” adds McKeown.

In Belfast, the council’s local development plan states that, within designated Housing Management Areas, planning permission will only be granted for HMOs and/or flats/apartments where the total number of HMOs and flats/apartments combined would not, as a result, exceed 20 per cent of all dwelling units within an HMA. 

Outside of designated HMAs, planning permission will only be granted for HMOs where the number of HMOs would not, as a result, exceed 10 per cent of all dwelling units on that road or street.

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  • icon

    Dear Tenant

    If you're sharing your flat with several others, your landlord may need a licence.

    You should check this out and if a licence is needed but hasn't been applied for, you can report your wicked landlord to your friendly local Council who will take them (singular woke use of them - to avoid using him or her) to the cleaners.

    Please note you and your flatmates will almost certainly be evicted as the Council cannot tolerate anyone not having the correct paperwork in place. The safety and quality of your current accommodation doesn't come into it. Licensed flats might even be more dangerous but that doesn't matter so long as our precious paperwork has been done and the necessary fees paid to us.

    Incidentally these fees have caused an associated increase in rents and a reduction in available properties which will almost certainly affect your chances of getting just as good a property at a similar rent.

    Yours sincerely

    Your friendly caring local council

    PS. Don't expect any help from us in finding a new flat to rent!


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