The meaning of “Responsible Person”: definition in law states:

As a licensed HMO you fall under the two enforcement bodies. One is the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006/2007, enforced by your local council. The other is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), enforced by Fire & Rescue Services.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) it places a duty on the responsible person to take general fire precautions and maintain the safety of the people in a HMO property. The ‘Responsible person’ means “the person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on of a trade, business or other undertaking”. This could mean the Landlord or the managing agent, or in some cases both as joint responsibility.

Under the FSO Order, the responsible person must assess the risks—identify the hazards and the people who are placed at risk by them—and remove or reduce the hazard and risks so far as they reasonably can and then put in place fire precautions to protect people from the risks that remain.

An assessment of the HMO would need meet the criteria laid down within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, BS9999:2008 Code of Practice: Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings and Building Regulations Part B – Fire Safety.

The person carrying out an assessment must be competent to do so. A competent person is to be regarded as a person with sufficient training, experience and knowledge of fire safety to enable them to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment properly, to avoid a fatal injury or death. Competency, therefore, to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment would need to be proved to a judge.

Under these provisions, if you do not have the qualifications to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment, and cannot prove competency, then you must take reasonable steps to ensure your tenants are not injured because of the property’s structure or condition. A ‘reasonable step’ may be to contact a professional to conduct a health and fire safety inspection of the property, perform any work that is suggested, and keep a record of all of this.


A recent successful prosecution in the London Borough of Camden concerned an agent who had received the initial month’s rent and was holding the tenancy deposit in accordance with an insurance-based tenancy deposit scheme. District Judge Newton accepted the argument that the receipt of the first month’s rent was enough to make the agent a person managing for the whole of the fixed term of the tenancy.

Is a ‘let only’ agent responsible for HMO licensing?