Improving fire safety in houses in Multiple Occupantion (HMOs)

Kevin Bloomfield | Belfast HMO Office, 95 Ann Street, Belfast, BT1 3HH |

What is a House in Multiple Occupation? (HMO)

A house occupied by more than 2 qualifying persons, being persons who are not all members of the same family.

Family: spouse, children, grand children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews and niece

Article 75, Housing (NI) Order 1992 as Amended

HMO Categories

  • Category A Bedsits Some sharing of amenities - usually a bathroom/wc
  • Category B Shared House Normally students. All facilities usually shared
  • Category C Lodgings Meals provided
  • Category D Hostels, B&B etc Where people live as their main home, not just visiting
  • Category E Residential homes
  • Category F Flats & Flatlets (created by conversion)

When are Flats classified as a HMO?

When a building (previously in residential usage) is converted into flats and there are more than 2 people who are not all members of the same family in the overall building.

The overall building is regarded as a HMO

Case Law

  • Okereke v Brent LBC [1967] 1 QB 42
  • Norwich City Council v Billings [1996] 29 HLR 679
  • Stanley v Ealing LBC [2003] EWCA Civ 679

When a flat within a purpose built or non residential conversion is occupied by more than 2 people who are not all members of the same family from the individual flat is a HMO

Warehouses Flats
Barn Flats
Office Block
Office Block Flats
School House
School House Flats
Church Flats

Improving Fire Safety in HMOs


  • Protecting People & the Environment
  • Protecting Our Community
  • Safe and healthy community
  • Protect the health and well-being of the population
  • A safe and secure environment in which to live
  • Promotes the highest standard in the managing and maintaining of rented accommodation


430+ Article 80 Notices - Current Year

To Provide Adequate Means of Escape from Fire & Other Fire Precautions (93%)

600+ Article 79 Notices - Current Year

Ensure that All Means of Escape from Fire and all Apparatus, Systems & Other Things provided by way of Fire Precautions are Maintained in Good Order (53%)

Article 80 Notices

  • Provide Fire Alarm System
  • Provide Emergency lighting
  • Provide ½ hr FRSC
  • Provide Protected Escape Routes (including routes which do not pass through a room of higher fire risk)
  • Provide Fire Resistant Horizontal Separation
  • Provide Fire Extinguishers & Fire Blankets
  • Provide Easy Opening Devices
  • Provide Escape / Rescue Windows

Article 79 Notices

  • Render the automatically operated fire detection system fully operational
  • Reinstate the Easy Opening Device to…
  • Remove all obstructions & combustible materials from fire escape routes
  • Reinstate the continuous electricity supply to fire detection and / or emergency lighting systems
  • Reinstate self-closer to ½ fire doors
  • Reinstate and / or service fire extinguishers
  • External Fire Escapes

Muppet of the Week Award

  • Flats on the Malone Road, Belfast
  • Disable the Fire Alarm System
  • Motor Bike blocking the Entrance Hall (Primary Escape Route)
  • 5 Gallon Drum of Petrol Beside the Motor Bike
  • 3 Mortice locks fitted to the back door
Parnership Cycle

Sharing Information

Each of the 3 Primary Authorities inform the others of HMO properties they have identified.

When serving a notice

Housing Executive Logo

When serving a Statutory Notice the Housing Executive inform Building Control (if building control approval is required).

We also inform NIFRS if the works are fire safety measures, inviting the NIFRS to consider carrying out a Fire Safety Audit

Building Control Logo

Building Control Open a database and write to the person on whom the notice is served informing them that they need to apply for Building Control Approval.

They may consult with NIFRS

NI Fire And Rescue Service

NIFRS write to the person on whom a notice has been served informing them about "Fire Risk Assessments", NIHE are copied into all correspondences.

NIFRS have identified HMOS as the No1 priority for Safety Audits

Completion of a notice

Housing Executive Logo

The Housing Executive inform Building Control and NIFRS on the completion of a notice

Building Control Logo

If an application for building control approval has been sought Building Control will carry out a final inspection.

If no application has been sought they will pro-actively engage with the "applicant"

NI Fire And Rescue Service

Included in the NIFRS Fire Audit Programme

Prohibition notices

NI Fire And Rescue Service

NIFRS can at any stage serve a prohibition notice, preventing the property being used as a HMO if they have concerns regarding fire safety in the property.

Housing Executive Logo

NIHE will consult / request NIFRS to consider taking action on HMO properties we have particular concerns about

Legal Action

NI Fire And Rescue Service

NIFRS can initiate legal proceedings in accordance with the power contained within the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

Housing Executive Logo

The Housing Executive will Prosecute owners/ managers for non compliance with a statutory notice.

If the property is registered the Housing Executive can also prosecute for breech of registration condition

The NIFRS & the Housing Executive will assist the partner organisation in any legal action the other decides to take. Including the provision of witness statements and / or giving evidence in any court case


  • Landlord Training
  • NVQ Level 2 - Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Student Information Days
  • District Councils Housing Committees
  • Promoting Registered HMOs - NIHE Dedicated Website (
028 7135 7872