A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property where three or more unrelated people live, using shared facilities (such as bathroom and kitchen). If you live with your landlord s/he does not count as one of those people. Many students live in HMO properties while they are at University. All HMO properties must be licensed with the local Council before they can be rented out.
The licensing conditions are strict, and include, for example, the need to have clear fire escape routes, safe gas and electrical appliances, adequately sized rooms and a telephone line installed.
We know that unlicensed HMOs can be cheaper, and therefore tempting to cash-strapped students. But living in an unlicensed HMO could expose you to health, safety and welfare hazards. Unlicensed HMOs are illegal and may not meet the Council’s safety standards. Ask yourself – if the landlord is willing to ignore the law on this, how much can you trust them to uphold the law in other areas, and respect your rights as a tenant?
If the property is licensed the licence must be prominently displayed. If you cannot see it you should ask the landlord to show you a copy.
If you are in any doubt that a property is licensed, it is sensible not to agree to take it until you have checked. Students are often put under pressure by landlords to sign tenancy agreements as there is often great demand for larger properties. However, it’s in your own best interests to check everything before you sign as complications could arise later in the tenancy. In extreme cases you could even be held responsible for colluding with the landlord to avoid their responsibility to license the property.
The Private Landlord Unit of Glasgow City Council (call them on 0300 313 0414) should be able to tell you whether there has been an application for a licence and whether a licence has been refused. You can do this anonymously if you want to, as information on properties with HMO licences is available to the public.
For further information on HMO licensing and landlord responsibilities have a look at Shelter Scotland.