Definition of an HMO

This section deals with the definition of an HMO.

This content applies to Scotland

Definition of an HMO

Advisers should note that these definitions are in relation to local authority licensing purposes. The definition of HMO for council tax purposes is slightly different and can be found on the page Council tax - liability and exemptions.

  • An HMO is a house which is the only or main residence of three or more people, who are members of more than two families.

'House' includes all residential property. Where a building is split into separate dwellings, two or more of which share basic amenities such as a toilet, bath or washing facilities, then it is taken to form part of a house. [1]

'Main residence' is left undefined. However, the legislation includes a student's halls of residence during term time as a main residence and excludes hospitals from being considered a patient's main residence. [2]

Resident landlords

Where there is an owner occupier in the property, then the owner occupier (and his or her family) are exempt in terms of how many people are living in the property. For example, a property would not be classed as an HMO if it comprised of an owner occupier, the owner occupier's family and up to two other families.

Where a resident landlord is not the owner of the property this exemption does not apply and therefore there can only be up to two families resident in total before the property falls under the HMO definition. [3]

Definition of family

The definition includes married, unmarried and same-sex couples, and stepchildren and foster children, as well as blood relatives: parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, but does not include cousins. [4]


The following types of properties which are exempt from HMO status;

  • properties which are used as; a care home service; an independent care service; school care accommodation or a secure accommodation service which are registered under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001; 

  • properties used by a religious community;

  • properties occupied by several qualifying person each of whom has a right of ownership in the property or by persons who are the a member of the same family as the qualifying person;

  • and properties subject to a control order under section 74 of the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) 2004 Act. [5]

Last updated: 20 January 2020


  • [1]

    s.125(1) Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

  • [2]

    s.125(4) Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

  • [3]

    s.126(1) Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

  • [4]

    s.128 Housing (Scotland) Act 2006

  • [5]

    s.126 Housing (Scotland) Act 2006