Merchiston CC > Local Concerns > HMOs


Houses of Multiple Occupancy

Local authorities were given discretionary power to introduce HMO licensing in 1991 under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. A new licensing order, made under the same Act, has made this mandatory from 1st October 2000.

All rented properties occupied by three or more unrelated persons must now be licensed by the Council. The landlord must ensure the property and his management meets a range of conditions in order to obtain a license. These ensure the property is safe to occupy and well managed.

The main areas of concern are:

  • Fire safety.
  • Space per tenant.
  • Tenancy management (including leases, deposits, repairs, access to the property by the landlord, behaviour of tenants).

It is a criminal offence to run an unlicensed HMO, punishable by a fine of up to £20,000.

If you suspect a property is an unlicensed HMO you can check by contacting the Council’s Private Rented Sector Team. or by email: Tel 0131 469 5061. Or 0131 469 5395.

Licenses are renewed periodically. The landlord must post up a site notice for neighbours indicating that he/she intends applying for a renewal. Neighbours have a right to object to a license or a renewal of license. Any objections are sent in to the Licensing section of the Council.

Unfortunately many landlords do not post up site notices as there is, effectively, no means at present to compel them or verify that they have done so. Thus neighbours do not always receive notification of an application of renewal of license.

The Council’s Regulatory Committee reserves the right to refuse an application of renewal of an HMO license and to hear any complaints from objectors. Since licensing came into effect the majority of HMOs are well run. The act has seen a rise in the standards of professionalism operated by landlords both towards their tenants and neighbours of HMOs. However, a number of HMOs continue to be badly run, and even generally well managed HMOs can suddenly present problems for neighbours. This is because most HMOs are not in houses but in flats.

The main problems are:

  • Densities of HMOs in individual stairs.
  • Noise.
  • Frequency of flits.
  • Increased numbers of visitors to the stair at all hours.
  • Abuse of common areas and increased wear and tear on common fabric.
  • Decreased number of ‘proper’ neighbours to run the tenement and provide support and back up in any difficulties relating to the running of the tenement.


Landlords of licensed HMOs are obliged in law to provide neighbours with a telephone number at which they can be contacted 24/7 should any problem arise. They are also obliged to provide the Council with such a number. When a license has been granted neighbours receive a notification of renewal of license which contains the name and contact telephone number of the landlord. If you do not have the contact telephone number of a landlord this can be obtained by ringing 0131 469 5695 or 0131 469 5395 (24 hour HMO helpline).

In addition the City of Edinburgh Council Environmental Health now have a night-team tackling domestic noise: 0131 311 3131