HMO licence for 3 tenants?

I am renting a 3 bed flat out to 3 young professional men (not related to each other) through Open Rent. The estate agent just asked me if I have a HMO licence and after brief googling it looks like I should have one for 3 or more unrelated tenants. There doesn’t seem to be an option to purchase a HMO licence through Open Rent though.

Should I have a HMO licence for a 3 bed flat? How should I get one?

Thanks! Desperate to sell the flat so don’t want to not have my ducks in a row… appreciate any advice!

Yes, you apply from local councils and rules do vary so check their website. To get license you may have to make some improvements like fire doors. So you can’t go ahead with the let yet.

Check with your local Council whether you need one for a 3 bed HMO. And I suggest you do some landlord training as there are lots of other things you probably don’t know too.

Thank you. I’ve inadvertently completely messed up and now unsure what to do.

I have been renting the property to 3 unrelated young professionals since end July 2023 - I do need an Additional HMO licence but didn’t realise. Shall I just go ahead and apply now? If the council sees I have tenants in there, am I subject to a huge fine?

To complicate matters, I have a buyer for the flat, so I served a section 21 notice 5 days ago. I now see this notice is invalid as I didn’t have the correct licence.

Can anyone advise what I should do? Shall I get the licence then reissue the section 21 notice, giving them a later date?

I definitely should have done landlord training. Desperate for this sale to go through as I’m losing money on the flat.

Feeling very worried and would really appreciate advice.


If you apply for the licence now before the Council discover the breach, then they wont be able to impose a penalty. However, the tenants could claim a rent repayment order for the period from July to the date of application.

After applying, you could re-serve the notice, but have you fulfilled all the other s21 requirements? Google “nearly legal s21 flowchart” and check whether yours would be valid.

Yes Ella I’m afraid you have messed up. You need to apply for the license IMMEDIATELY or Penalties could be much higher.
A could COULD (but does not have to) award your tenants a refund of the rent they paid you as you were illegally renting to them.
You will not be able to move them with a section 21 notice - and will have to start again with a section 8 notice
but you might need to repay them a lot of money!

One option could be to go to you tenants and offer them a significant rent refund if THEY give YOU
notice and voluntarily move out - then nothing goes to court and they have resources to get a new flat.

This is a win/win for you both.

Being landlord is not easy money, and it can be a high risk game if you make mistakes. It takes a lot of hard work and homework and ai feel for you that you are learning this the hard way - its important to say it though so other landlords reading this learn from it .

I’ve take a few hard losses in my time - but its tough if you are new landlord, especially in these litigious times.