HMO insurance – what you need to consider

As a landlord, if you let your property to several tenants who aren’t members of the same family, it may be a ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ (HMO). Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are a special type of rental property in which the facilities are shared by separate households 

Your property is an HMO if both of the following apply:

  • at least 3 tenants live there, forming more than one household
  • toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities are shared

 
A household consists of either a single person or members of the same family who live together. It includes people who are married or living together and people in same-sex relationships.

Under the Housing Act 2004 HMO status comes with its own unique set of legal responsibilities for the landlord and/or property manager, which may include requiring a licence.

Licences

An HMO must have a licence if it is both:

  • 3 or more storeys high
  • occupied by 5 or more people

 
A council can also include other types of HMOs for licensing.

Find out if you need an HMO licence from your council.

Risk assessment

The council has to carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk assessment on your HMO within 5 years of receiving a licence application. If the inspector finds any unacceptable risks during the assessment, you must carry out work to eliminate them.

Reporting changes

You must tell the council if:

  • you plan to make changes to an HMO
  • your tenants make changes
  • your tenants’ circumstances change (for example they have a child)

 

Implications for insurance

HMO insurance falls into a specialist category in the sense that, although it protects the owner’s buildings and contents just as any standard building and contents insurance or landlord insurance for self-contained rental accommodation does, it takes into the account increased risks associated with housing several different occupants within a single property.

By definition, it is a property in multiple occupation, with facilities that are shared by several households, meaning lots of footfall.

These special circumstances result in an insurer’s belief that HMOs represent increased risks when it comes to providing the necessary cover for landlords – especially in common areas and in the use of shared facilities, for example, where there may be a greater risk of damage to the property and its contents, whether that damage is caused maliciously or otherwise.

Due to the perceived increase in risk, some insurers choose not to quote HMO properties and those that do often charge a higher premium they would with a normal occupancy.

If you are thinking about buying an HMO or converting your existing buy to let property into an HMO, it is important to remember that you need specialist HMO insurance that recognises the particular risks involved, yet provides you the cover you need at a competitive price.

For more information about this kind of insurance, please speak to one of our commercial insurance teams who will be able to advise you.

Find out more about landlords' building & contents insurance

Sources: www.gov.uk; UKInsuranceNet

Article kindly provided by Tobias Marshall, Commercial Account Executive, A-Plan Bristol