HMO bathroom requirements: Ultimate guide and design tips

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In a competitive rental market, bathrooms are the ultimate judgement zone. The days of tired, average-looking HMO bathrooms are long behind us.    

Basic and potentially mouldy bathrooms are one of the main things that put off prospective tenants, especially the type of professional and aspirational tenants who are willing to pay higher rents and who will look after your property. These individuals won’t mind paying a bit more if it improves their comfort level. And this applies to the bathroom, where people tend to be the most vulnerable and want to feel at ease.

Therefore, in this blog post, we’ll cover HMO bathroom requirements, challenges of communal bathrooms and en-suites, and some smart design tips that have contributed to our 97% planning success rate, adding value to hundreds of HMO projects.

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What are the bathroom requirements for HMOs?

There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to communal bathrooms in houses in multiple occupation. And that’s based on what’s going to be adequate from a tenant’s point of view in terms of day-to-day use and what’s required from a health and safety standpoint. 

Your HMO customers have necessities in common and consider personal hygiene to be of the utmost importance. So, your role as a landlord is to prevent issues, such as having tenants queuing up to use the communal bathroom or arguing over it. No one likes a bathroom hogger.

The more you facilitate your tenants’ stay in your property, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Your accommodation should be comfortable and welcoming in all respects to encourage tenants to live in your HMO longer. 

So how many communal bathrooms should an HMO have? Ideally, you should aim for 1 bathroom for every 3 tenants to ensure that people have enough space to enjoy living in that particular property without having any problems.

In terms of health and safety requirements for HMOs, the ratio is 1 communal bathroom for every 4 tenants. Depending on the number of persons, you should provide an adequate amount of basins, toilets, and showers or baths. For HMOs with more than 5 tenants, you’ll need separate toilets from the main bathroom suite so that renters aren’t running into difficulty.

Some councils may have different communal space requirements for HMOs, so it’s always advisable to check those regulations first. But overall, you should make sure that:

  • The size and layout of the bathroom comply with the HMO regulations.
  • Toilets, washbasins, and bathrooms in rented accommodation are in good working condition.
  • All the bathrooms are easily accessible and located on the same floor as the bedrooms whenever possible. 
  • Bathrooms are adequately heated and ventilated, secure and provide tenants with a sense of privacy.
  • There’s a constant supply of cold and hot water.

En-suites and private bathrooms

As a property investor, you may have considered putting as many en-suite bathrooms as possible in your property to improve room rents, charge a premium for the bedrooms and perhaps secure the future and longevity of your HMO business. However, there are significant challenges to consider:

  • Installing en-suites into HMOs can add value to the room, but it comes at a cost. If the room is far from where the drain is located, all the plumbing can be a hassle. Future-proof en-suites  must be designed and installed with precision by qualified professionals, otherwise, money will be spent on maintenance and upkeep. Leaks, faulty shower seals, mould due to poor ventilation and blocked drains are just a few of the problems you may face. 
  • Another issue is the possibility of getting re-banded for your Council Tax. It’s becoming increasingly common for local councils and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to band HMOs on a room-by-room basis, rather than for the whole building, and to use en-suites as a reason to justify this. A dramatic increase in your Council Tax bill is bad news for your bottom line, so be cautious.
  • Make sure adding en-suites doesn’t eat up so much bedroom space that you can’t obtain an HMO licence. While you may not fail amenity standards, ensure that you leave enough room in the bedroom. Your potential tenants aren’t probably interested in living in tiny rooms even if they have an en-suite. Renters may prefer a double room with a double bed instead of a single bed with an en-suite.

Because of these disadvantages, it may not be worth sacrificing space to fill your HMO design with en-suites in every bedroom. You must confirm that your product is desirable. How can you achieve that?

Our recommendation is to do your research. Asking local experts, such as estate agents and property managers, about the potential uplift in value is an excellent idea. At HMO Architect, we provide Design Appraisals, which allow our clients to have an informed discussion on the designs. Our team will check the regulations and layouts so that you can take this information to others for analysis.

You should find out what the return on investment is going to be and understand the risk involved. And above all, you need to know your prospective tenants and their preferences to avoid making mistakes and guarantee the success of your HMO property.

En-suites offer more privacy and have become popular due to their convenience in terms of the proximity to the bedroom. But a smart solution is combining private bathrooms or off-suites and en-suites to keep your tenants happy. 

Notably, young professionals will appreciate having their own bathroom even if it has to be accessed from a common area. It’s a win-win strategy. The tenant can use the facility whenever they need it without having to queue.  And you can choose the best location for the bathroom and avoid future problems with the VOA and Council Tax.

What if you’re interested in Sui Generis HMOs and want a commercial valuation? 

Avoid adding family bathrooms as the lender won’t classify your property as commercial. Commercial properties shouldn’t have a family bathroom.

What if the investor wants to rent to a family?

Based on our experience, we always try to add a family bathroom with a bathtub so that there is another exit if the investor wants to rent to a family. Bathrooms are of utmost importance for families, especially with young children. So that’s what we usually do if we can find the space and the clients agree.

Design tips for HMO bathrooms

High-end design is the future of HMOs. And you must up your game to boost your returns. Communal bathrooms, en-suites and private bathrooms can all add sophistication and great appeal to your HMO as long as they are well-designed with your potential renters in mind. Based on our experience, here are some do’s and don’ts.

Do’s 

  • Allow tenants space to move, sit or stand comfortably between the sanitary fixtures.
  • When it comes to en-suites, poor ventilation will cause tenants to complain about dampness behind their beds and wardrobes. So, invest in good extractor fans and provide sufficient heating to avoid moisture and condensation problems.
  • Consider the location of toilets in the layout to promote privacy in bathrooms and spare your tenants potential embarrassment. Make sure that the toilet is out of sight of the door.
  • Choose bathroom flooring that can withstand moisture.

Don’ts

  • Avoid buying cheap shower screens, trays and enclosures.
  • Don’t install poor-quality vanity units that swell and degrade in humidity.
  • Don’t use incompatible fittings. Always talk to plumbers before buying these elements.
  • Porous paints are a no-no. Choose moisture-resistant paint instead. The bathroom needs a finish that can withstand a hot, steamy environment.
  • Don’t forget the finishing touches. For instance, your tenants will appreciate a nice mirror near the vanity unit and good primary lighting. Keep in mind this is where your tenants will groom themselves. Thus, they need quality lighting to apply makeup or shave.

Additional design tips

Maximise the brightness and openness of the space in communal bathrooms without windows by using lighter-coloured paints. You can also install bathroom flooring in lighter shades.

When it comes to private bathrooms or en-suites, you may use darker colours to create a corner of peace that your prospective tenant can bask in while bathing. Earthy colours, such as taupe and limestone, add a touch of elegance, a sense of cosiness, and a feeling of serenity. Neutral colour palettes in surfaces and furnishings can transform private bathrooms into natural spas and sanctuaries where tenants can enjoy some timeout.

To avoid making the space look cramped, you can install freestanding sanitaryware. Allowing the entire floor space to remain visible is a great trick to achieve the feeling of spaciousness. You can even invest in space-saving shelving and storage solutions and adorn them with small plants.

Traditional shower enclosures can take up a lot of space and make the room visually cluttered and uncomfortable. This is why wetrooms are one of HMO Architect’s favourite design solutions that our clients love. 

In this case, the shower won’t be separated from the rest of the bathroom, and the water coming out of the shower can fall directly onto the floor and flow through a hole. With wetrooms, we add great value to a small space, as they provide the functionality of a traditional bathroom, along with the luxury of a tiled area under the shower, which appears to be bigger.

Conclusion

Bathrooms are not to be feared, they are an opportunity to stand out in the HMO market. Communal bathrooms, en-suites and private bathrooms can elevate your brand as a property investor or landlord and be the reason why your HMOs are chosen over the competition.

There are HMO communal space requirements and regulations to comply with, but you can leave that to us, as well as liaising with all the contractors. We can take the hassle away from you, so you can focus on more important matters. 
Feel free to contact us via our website so you can speak to our architects, who have successfully helped hundreds of investors just like you to get planning permission across the UK.

Picture of Giovanni Patania

Giovanni Patania

(Architect Director, Co-Founder)

Giovanni Patania is the Lead Architect and Co-Founder at HMO Architect and Windsor Patania Architects.

Originally from Siena, Italy, Giovanni worked as a Project Lead Architect at Foster+ Partners, designing Apple stores across the world,

An HMO Investor himself, Giovanni understands property thoroughly, both from an investor's perspective and technically, as an Architect.

With over 15 years of HMO development experience, working on over 150+ HMOs and a 95% Planning and Building Regulation success rate, Giovanni has the expertise and credentials to help you on your HMO journey."

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