What is an HMO?

In October 2000 a new Order came into effect requiring that Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) in Scotland be licensed. It was brought in as a secondary piece of legislation based on existing licensing laws.

The Order was introduced by the Scottish Parliament as a means of obliging unscrupulous landlords to provide proper and safe living conditions for their tenants. Small housing co-ops are now exempt, but only since October 2003 when a second Amendment Order came into effect.

Six small housing co-ops in Scotland formed a group calling themselves Scottish Friendly Housing and lobbied for exemption. They pointed out that various areas of the HMO regulations did not work well with small housing co-ops that ran as intentional communities. Also there were direct parallels with already exempt groups such as the owner occupied. In a similar way, housing co-op members are the tenants AND the landlords, but using the legal body of a registered housing co-op.

Only small housing co-ops are exempt – specifically targeting those co-ops that run as intentional communities. The test is whether the management of co-ops is undertaken by general meeting, ie that generally everyone is present and has a say in the day-to-day running of the co-op.

Scottish Friendly Housing are Auchinleck, Bath Street, Laurieston Hall, Ploughshare, Shindig and Talamh Housing Co-ops.
The original legislation is:
The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Order 2000. 
[SSI 2000 No 177]

Guidance on the Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation can be found on the Scottish Executive website. In effect these “Guidance notes” are the HMO rules as there is a strict interpretation except where other legislation applies.

The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Amendment Order 2003 [SSI 2003 No 463]
This is the Amendment that specifically excludes Small housing co-ops, which in effect modifies the original Order to say:

“Any house which is owned by a co-ownership body [“co-ownership body” means a co-operative housing association, within the meaning of section 300(1)(b) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987], the management of which is undertaken by general meeting, shall not be regarded as a house for the purposes of this Order.”.

Housing Scotland Act, 1987, section 300(1)(b)
“Co-operative housing association” means a fully mutual housing association which is a society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965, and “fully mutual” in relation to housing association, means that the rules of the association-

  • (i) restrict membership to persons who are tenants or prospective tenants of the association, and
  • (ii) preclude the granting or assignation of tenancies to person other than members.

There was an earlier Amendment Order although this does not mention Housing Co-ops:
The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation) Amendment Order 2002.
 [SSI 2002 No 161]