Sharing a flat without an HMO licence in Edinburgh

When can multiple tenants rent a flat without an HMO licence in Scotland?

Most bigger flats with multiple sharers require an HMO licence, but it is a general rule with some exceptions. Sometimes 3 or even 4 students can legally rent a non-HMO property. In short, Houses of Multiple Occupation are any living accommodation occupied by more than 3 persons who are members of more than two families.  The occupants of an HMO property would share a toilet and /or bathroom and/or kitchen.

So the main restrictions are: the number of permitted occupiers and their relationships.

What is a ‘family’?

For the purpose of the HMO legislation, tenants are treated as family members if they are:

  • A couple, or
  • Related to each other, or
  • One of them is a relative of one member of a couple and the other is a relative of the other member of that couple.

What is a ‘couple’?

A couple means two persons who:

  • Are married or civil partners, or
  • Live together as husband and wife or in an equivalent same-sex relationship.

What does ‘related’ mean?

Allowed family members are:

  • Parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews or nieces.
  • The half-blood relationships count as the whole-blood relationships
  • Stepchildren are treated as biological children.
  • A person de facto brought up or treated as a child by the other person should be treated as the other person’s child.

So what does it really mean for student flat sharers?

Three unrelated students definitely cannot rent a non-HMO flat. But a couple and their friend are, as far as the legislation is concerned, members of two families, so they can rent a non-HMO property. The same goes for two couples sharing one property – they are technically considered to be members of the same family.
Two siblings and their friend can rent a non-HMO flat, even if they are half-blood siblings or one of them was adopted or de facto raised by the other sibling’s parents.
Landlords and their family member should not be included in ‘3 person’ limit: i.e. a landlord can let two bedrooms to two unrelated sharers and the HMO requirements would be triggered only if the said landlord wanted to let another bedroom to a third unrelated sharer. The number of unrelated tenants for an HMO compliance is the same as if they lived in the property without the landlord or the landlord’s family member.

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