HMO Shorthold Tenancy Agreement Contract Guide

HMO Shorthold Tenancy Agreement Contract

There’s nothing fancy or different about creating a tenancy with a HMO (Houses in multiple occupation) tenant – the legal agreement between you and your tenants should be an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST), just like if you were letting a property to a single family (i.e. a single let).

AST’s are the most common form of arrangement between private residential landlords and tenants – including HMO tenants – in the UK.

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Introduction to HMO Shorthold Tenancy Agreements

I’ve already discussed Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements in depth, and everything in there – including the best practices, rules and legislations governed by the relevant Housing Act(s) – will apply to HMO tenancy agreements, including:

However, while I’ve been through much of the details already, there are a few specific points I want to highlight and cover in regards to creating an ASTs for HMO’s, which typically aren’t as relevant for regular single let situations:

You probably won’t have an AST if…

  • you share the accommodating with your tenants. In this case, your tenants are most likely lodgers, and you shouldn’t use an AST, because a lodger agreement comes with a whole different set of more lenient rules and legislations.
  • you charge more than £100,000 a year for rent. While this will be unlikely for most landlords, I wouldn’t be surprised if some HMOs exceed the threshold.

To check what kind of tenancy you have (if you’re unsure), you can use this nifty little tool by Shelter.

HMO tenants and utility bills

As mentioned, the tenancy agreement should stipulate who is responsible for what bills e.g. electricity, gas, council tax etc. Generally speaking, in shared accommodation situations, the landlord takes care of all the bills and takes that into consideration when setting the rent. From my experience, most HMO tenants and landlords prefer that. It’s the most simple way of handling bills.

I recommend using an energy auto-switch service, which will help ensure you’re benefiting from the best available tariffs, and therefore keeping your energy bills low and profits maximised!

Alternatively, it is possible to assign one ‘responsible’ tenant to be in charge of all the bills, which means he/she will have to collect the money from the other tenants and then make payment. But this option is less desirable for a couple of reasons:

  • if the assigned tenant decides to leave, someone else will need to be assigned, which isn’t always an easy process
  • it can be the root cause of tension between tenants:
    • If a tenant refuses to pay, or frequently pays late
    • It’s difficult to measure exactly how much of the utilities is used by each tenant, so if one tenant feels they use less electricity, for example, they may begrudge paying an equal share once having seen the bill total.
  • Landlords often charge a little extra for covering the bills, so they make more money from it.

HMO tenancies can be Joint or Sole/Separate

There are generally two common ways of implementing tenancy agreements for an HMO property: by using individual contracts for each tenant, or using a single “joint and severally liable” agreement.

The tenancy agreement’s terms and conditions should state whether the tenancy is a Sole or Joint agreement:

  • Joint tenancies: this is a common arrangement for student properties, or a HMO consisting of friends moving in together, and work best if the tenants know one another and are likely to move in and leave at the same time.

    The tenants are jointly liable for both the rent and the care of the property; responsibilities are shared between tenants (like a single let arrangement, where the lead tenants, as stipulated in the tenancy agreement, are responsible). For example, if one tenant doesn’t pay rent, then the other tenants will be required to cover the shortfall. Also, usually the remaining tenants are responsible for finding a tenant(s) if a room becomes available.

    By nature, a joint tenancy requires less administration, as there is one overall agreement with one single rent payable (and one deposit to protect, should you decide to take a deposit).

    All tenants names should be on one tenancy agreement in this case.

  • Sole/Separate tenancies: HMOs consisting of adults, who usually don’t know one another and don’t want to assume responsibility for other tenants, are usually issued separate (Sole) AST’s for each room.

    Each tenant is responsible for themselves i.e. they pay their own rent, and the behaviour of other tenants does not affect their tenancy. For example, if one tenant does not pay rent, or has fallen into arrears, the remaining tenants are not required to cover the shortfall.

    This requires more admin work as each room should have their own individual tenancy agreement, and each and every deposit should be individually protected when one is taken.

    As briefly mentioned above – in the utility bills sections – if there is a separate AST per room, it usually means the landlord will be liable for council tax and utility bills (it just makes more sense that way, practically speaking).

HMO Tenancy Agreement Contracts/Forms

There’s certainly no short supply of tenancy agreement contracts around the web (a swift Google’ing session will attest to that), many available for free download, which I understand can be an extremely compelling proposition.

My first word of warning is to use a reliable outlet, and use a contract that is specifically for HMO’s that meets the demands of your setup. While, in almost all cases, HMO tenants are given an AST – most AST contracts available from stationers and online are intended for Single let situations. Do NOT use those for HMOs as they won’t be suitable.

My second word of warning is not to butcher existing tenancy agreements by adding and modifying clauses to meet your specific set of circumstances. It’s something many landlords have done only to regret shortly after. You could end up in a legal bind if any of the additional clauses were to be challenged and they weren’t drafted properly, or aren’t legally enforceable in the first place.

The best thing to do is contact a specialist landlord law solicitor, and get them to draft a contract specifically for your HMO. Yup, it may cost a couple of hundred quid, but it’s definitely a sound investment if you’re serious about doing HMOs right.

10 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Carol Yates 28th October, 2018 @ 17:41

I am only a small HMO landlord with four unrelated residents living in a fully furnished house, sharing a bathroom, kitchen and communal living room with outside garden area. I don’t live at the property, but employ someone to mow lawns once a fortnight. I take care of weeding the garden and cleaning communal areas within the house. I have not inspected any of the locked bedrooms and would not enter without 24hrs notice as I have only been open three months so some of my residents are fairly new. Things seem to be going alright so far, but I am anxious to get as much advice as I can to keep this house running smoothly. I think this site is going to be really useful to me in my early days. Best wishes, Carol

Guest Avatar
MikeB 10th November, 2018 @ 12:36

I think this misses really important issues:
I have 3 high quality furnished HMOs as room let in 3 bed semis

1/ A critical issue is access: I am entitled to go in common areas, tenants cannot shut me out.
So I can see if problems are happening

2/ Theincome is more reliable. Only one tenant goes at a time, so only 33 percent of income.
The bills are covered by only one tenant.

3/ Insurance hates unnocupied properties, with hmo they don't become unnocupied just because one tenant leaves

4/ there are easy cheap advertising media such as spareroom and easyroommate so getting tenants is cheap.

5/ tenant turnover comes down to quality - by putting in high quality contents with aground floor lounge, diner, kitchen communal high end TV - professional tenants stay, 2 years is typical.

6/ Doing it properly cost more than cheap...
but here typical in NW
House including contents, renovation, compliance £140000
Gross rent/month £1200 Bills 350
So return net of everything £10k is 7%
Even two tenants yields 5+

To me access and stable income are most important.

7/ HMO building regs compliance with fire resistant doors , high end alarm, solid doors , thumblocks, sometimes internal studded partitions can cost £5K

8/ maintaining gardens etc is an issue

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 10th November, 2018 @ 20:49


Valid points, but this article is just about HMO tenancy agreements specifically, not a general overview of HMOs (which your comment seems to be about).

Guest Avatar
Mandy B 31st January, 2021 @ 15:54

I have already got one HMO running, so hopefully have a grasp of what I'm doing :-)
But I'm been daft enough to be purchasing another HMO AHHHH.
The question I do not know is the house already has tenants and I am keeping them on (obviously) Do I need to do my own tenancy agreements with them or do I let them carry on with the agreements they have signed with the previous owner with his name on the agreement ?

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 31st January, 2021 @ 16:58

Blimey, you're a glutton for punishment! :)

The existing tenancy agreement will still be valid after you become the new owner, even though the previous landlord is named on it, so no need for new ones. However, you should give the tenants your details.

Guest Avatar
Mandy B 31st January, 2021 @ 17:08

Thank you 😃

Guest Avatar
Carla O'Kane 25th May, 2021 @ 11:37


I would really appreciate some advice......
I have a HMO that 4 self contained units and 4 separate tenancy agreements. I am remortgaging and the lender has asked that there is only one tenancy agreement in place. Is it straightforward to change? The tenants are strangers and have moved in on different dates

Guest Avatar
Peter Wood 6th June, 2021 @ 18:20

Any advice as to how to prevent one of the tenants - in an HMO of non-related single room occupancies - from having a dog. Seems since June 2021 the legal default is they can have a pet.(?)

One of the other tenants has asthma and says a dog may cause them problems. Is this a good reason to insist on no pets?

Guest Avatar
Duncan G 26th October, 2022 @ 13:34


We have the same problem as previous comment No7. I also have a HMO with 2 self contained units and three bedsits on 5 separate tenancy agreements. I am remortgaging and the lender has asked that there is only one tenancy agreement in place. Is it straightforward to change? The tenants are strangers and have moved in on different dates

Guest Avatar
Hiba 7th June, 2023 @ 22:32

I’m landlord and HMO licence holder, previous tenant with property manager take property from me on rent fraudulently. After council inspection they found multiple tenants were living and that actual tenant never lived their, he was a scammer took four more properties in our area pretended to be landlord and faced fine from court through council representations.
I came to property after few years as was living abroad and found there were multiple people in the property with no contracts. As a licence holder my obligation was to take care of the well being of actual tenants, so I signed agreements with them, removed illegal partitions and make the common parts in working conditions.
Now the property manager said I have evicted his tenant who was fined from court and never lived there.
I’m not sure what is my position I didn’t evict any of the tenants and just fulfill my HMO licence obligations.
I’m planning to file damages claim to property manager who is doing all this fraud

















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