Tenants expect more than just compliance with HMO toilet requirements. They want ensuites!

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What’s the second best present you can get an HMO tenant? According to a recent poll, their own ensuite toilet or bathroom.

The HMO market has changed. In the past 2-3 years, there’s been a distinct shift upward in tenants’ incomes and expectations. Shut out of the single dwelling market because of a shortage of supply, well-earning professionals now embrace HMOs as never before. When looking for accommodation, many now actively seek out HMOs with higher amenity standards, specifically ensuite bathrooms, high-speed broadband and bigger rooms.

We’re fielding more enquiries than ever as an HMO architect on how landlords can provide accommodation to meet tenants’ rising standards affordably.

JUMP TO

What the law states about toilets in house of multiple occupation

The shifting expectations of HMO tenants

The cost of installing ensuite toilets and bathrooms

Frequently asked questions about HMO toilet requirements

Download a free guide with our ideas on HMO en suites

What the law states about toilets in houses of multiple occupation

First, let’s look at toilets and bathrooms with HMOs from a legal perspective. The governing law is the Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006.

At a glance, the rules are:

  • For three or four occupants sharing facilities, there must be one toilet which can form part of the bathroom.
  • For five or more occupants, there must be a toilet with a wash hand basin (or sink) for every five occupants in addition to but separate from the main bathroom or bathrooms.
  • Toilets are required to have easily-cleanable floor and ceiling surfaces which are impervious and smooth. The floor must be slip-resistant and easy to clean.
  • Toilets should be within the building, accessible from common areas and located no more than one floor away from occupiers.
  • Separate toilets should have wash hand basins (sinks) that have an appropriate splash-back. Taps must provide an adequate supply of cold and constant hot water.
  • Rooms containing washing facilities must have adequate heating and ventilation.

Please be aware that many local authorities have their own requirements on toilet and washing facility minimum sizes.

The shifting expectations of HMO tenants

As you’re aware, there’s no requirement to provide ensuite toilets or bathrooms to tenants in homes of multiple occupation.

Many landlords, understandably keen to keep costs down in what can be expensive refit and refurb projects, choose instead to invest in providing the best communal kitchen and bathroom facilities their budget allows to satisfy their tenants.

HMOs are becoming desirable

There has been a noticeable flight of well-earning professionals to HMOs from standalone housing units. This is causing perceptions of HMOs to shift away from the stigma that may have once applied to them.

And this trend has been reflected in a recent survey recently published by Paragon Bank.

Landlords told surveyors that:

  • 48% of them saw growth in demand for “high end HMOs”.
  • 45% of them saw strong demand growth from young professionals in the last 12 months.
  • 23% of them said that HMOs now appealed to “older, affluent tenants.”

HMO landlords react to changing tenant demographics

Jonathan Samuels, chief executive at Octane Capital, told Mortgage Introducer that they had dealt with a large number of refurbishment projects from landlords “looking to drastically improve the quality of existing HMOs”.

The survey from Paragon Bank reflected this too. It found that:

  • 56% of tenants wanted higher-speed broadband
  • 39% wanted larger rooms
  • 39% wanted better quality furnishings
  • 35% wanted “office facilities to enable home working”

53% wanted en suite bathrooms. So, there’s certainly a demand there that you can fill.

The new breed of HMO tenants hopes for more than shared bathrooms and wash hand basins (sinks) – they hope for something of their own. After all, they share everything else with their fellow tenants. Sharing access to the same cookers, utensils and kitchen worktop space with fellow housemates presents challenges.

At least, with an ensuite, they’d have their own toilet and washing facilities. It would be even better if their ensuite contained perhaps their own little bathroom with a shower. If it could have heating in it so that it’s nice and toasty in the British winter, that’d be great.

The cost of installing ensuite toilets and bathrooms

Clearly, tenants now want more than the statutory one bathroom for every five housemates. So what options are open to you?

The room sizes of bedrooms in your HMO property may be clearly a physical barrier to what’s possible. Some rooms may simply be too small. If installing an ensuite toilet or bathroom means that there’s not enough room to comfortably fit a double bed or means compromising on storage space, an ensuite may make the room less marketable.

Where there is space, it has to be carefully used. It has to be big enough so that a tenant doesn’t have to do contortions to get in and out of their ensuite because the door swings open so close to the toilet. For minimum size, Home Building magazine recommends that simple cloakrooms, as they call them, should be a minimum 800 x 1,400mm (around 1.12m2).

According to Checkatrade, the cost of installing a cloakroom toilet, similar to a downstairs toilet in other homes, would be £2,450 (with an extra £300 for groundwork on the lower floor).

If you have more room to play with and you can fit in a small bath or shower, this might cost you up to £4,000, according to Home Advice Guide.

In most cases, you won’t have to submit a planning application for en suites.

Doing a lot with a little

Prompted by an increase in the number of queries from landlords in the past few months, we’ve decided to create a download containing ideas on how you can fit the following into the smallest possible space:

  • 16m2 ensuites with toilet, wash hand basin (sink) and shower unit
  • 2.4-2.5m2 ensuites with toilet, wash hand basin and shower unit
  • 3.4m2 with bath, wash hand basin and shower unit
  • Small wetrooms containing a toilet and wash hand basin

To download your copy, please scroll to the bottom of this article.

Frequently asked questions

Does HMO room size include ensuites?

When calculating room sizes for an HMO licence, councils generally do not include the space taken up by ensuite bathrooms.

What is considered an en suite?

An ensuite is a bathroom connected to a bedroom that can only be accessed from within the bedroom.

Does an ensuite count as a room?

In a sense yes but, because it can only be accessed via a private bedroom, it is usually described as an ensuite bathroom to indicate that it is not accessible via a property’s common area.

What size bathroom does an HMO need?

The minimum bathroom area in an HMO is as follows and includes drying and activity space:

  • Toilet plus wash hand basin: 1.2m2
  • Shower only: 1.7m2
  • Shower plus wash hand basin: 2.0m2
  • Shower, wash hand basin and toilet: 2.2m2
  • Bath only: 2.3m2
  • Bath plus wash hand basin: 2.5m2
  • Bath, wash hand basin and toilet: 2.8m2

What are the legal requirements for an HMO?

The 2018 regulations require the minimum floor area for use by one person for sleeping accommodation in an HMO to be 4.64m2 for a child under 10, 6.51m2 for a person aged 10 and above and 10.22m2 for two people aged 10 and above.

If any room within your HMO is less than 4.64m2, you must notify your local authority.

The relevant act is the Housing Act (2004).

What are the minimum standards for HMOs in the UK?

A residential property will be considered as a house in multiple occupation if 3 tenants live there sharing bathroom, toilet and kitchen facilities. Large HMOs have 5 or more tenants. In HMOs, tenants do not belong to the same household (that is they are not members of the same family living together).

Free diagrams of ensuites from HMO bedrooms

Please call us on 01233 776 997 to get a download link a free PDF containing ideas for:

  • 16m2 ensuites with toilet, wash basin and shower unit
  • 2.4-2.5m2 ensuites with toilet, wash basin and shower unit
  • 3.4m2 with bath, wash basin and shower unit
  • Small wetrooms containing a toilet and wash basin

HMO Architect is one of the UK’s leading architectural practices for HMO landlords. To talk to us about your next HMO build or refurb, please call us on 01233 776 997 or fill in the form below.

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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