Co-Living Development

Does a Liverpool HMO need ensuites?

Thinking back to when I lived in an HMO as a student, I’m reminded of how much HMOs have advanced this past decade. The raw competitiveness to fill rooms has driven landlords to keep raising the bar with their design. One of the key introductions, which was not really about when I lived in an HMO, is ensuites – the bedroom with a dedicated bathroom.

Formerly reserved for the suburbs of Formby or Woolton, the not-so-humble ensuite is now a staple in HMOs across Liverpool and Wirral. It’s a curious match-up though isn’t it, the young urban tenant and the en-suite bathroom? But in the context of an HMO, where tenants are sharing communal areas, it seems a no brainer to give those tenants their own bathroom each… or does it?

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of ensuites in an HMO and guide you through this key design decision.



What’s the benefit of ensuites in a Liverpool HMO?

A client of ours was about to commence a refurbishment recently and wanted us to analyse the business case for adding en-suites to his 6-bedroom HMO. Prudent as he is, he wasn’t about to add five figures to his refurbishment budget just because it’s ‘the done thing’. He needed to really understand the financial merits of ensuite bathrooms and so asked us to help. Here’s what we forecasted:

Please note this information is relevant to a specific property in a specific area and may differ to your property.
❌ Without Ensuites 
✅ With Ensuites
Gross rental income at 100% occupancy £2,500 pcm £3,000 pcm
Expected occupancy rates 90-95% 95-100%
Average tenancy length 7-12 months 16-20 months
  • Lower maintenance. Less pipes = less leaks.
  • More bedroom space makes rooms more appealing.
  • Less capital outlay during refurbishment.
  • Better tenant retention.
  • Rooms rent quicker / less voids
  • Less ‘Tenant Finding Fees’
  • Tenants are happier, they have more privacy and with that comes comfort and satisfaction.
  • Less comfortable so tenants will naturally move on quicker. High tenant turnover = more agent fees.
  • Prospective tenants will usually choose a room with an en-suite over a room without. This increases voids periods.
  • If you have a cleaner then shared bathrooms will need to be cleaned by them. This is a direct cost to the landlord.
  • High capital outlay during refurbishment.
  • Higher maintenance. There really is more that can go wrong with ensuites. Bathrooms are one of the most maintenance-prone rooms in any HMO.
  • They can eat into floor space in bedrooms, leaving some bedrooms a bit pokey.


Now if those comparisons seem like sweeping generalisations, it is because they are. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation and each property should be analysed in isolation.

Take for example the student market. Some of the biggest student landlords here in Liverpool don’t provide en-suites. Why? They know their tenant demographic really well and ensuites just aren’t expected or required by them.

The point here is to understand your end-users. Understand the pros and cons to them as tenants and think about the pros and cons to you as a landlord.



Technical considerations

Your sink, shower and toilet will all have supply pipes going to them but the trickiest thing to navigate is the waste pipes. Waste water in most houses runs to the rear or side of the property so if your en-suite is on the opposite side of the house you need to plan a route for your waste pipes to run to that point.

There are two main problems here, waste pipes (soil pipes in particular) are large and they also need to have a fall on them so that wastewater flows. In other words, they can’t be completely horizontal. This can mean adding bulkheads into the ceilings below. It’s probably one for your builder or architect to work out with you but please don’t just assume you can have an en-suite anywhere in the house. It’s not always possible.



I’ve binge-watched enough videos on the Tiny House Movement to know a thing or two about saving space. Truth is, if you’re adding six bathrooms to a house that was only designed to have one, they’ll need to be pretty compact.

Have you seen those toilets where the sink is built into the cistern? It’s all a bit too close for comfort IMHO but, hey, if you really need to improvise on space saving…


The off-suite

Whilst it might offend a French person, the completely fabricated term ‘off-suite’ has been growing in popularity recently. It’s essentially a bathroom in common areas that is accessible by all tenants but only shared between 1 or 2 of them. Personally, I would just call this a bathroom but here we are.

The main reason they’re popular is because it means that if your tenants have guests in the house then they don’t need to go through bedrooms to use the toilet. 

Another version of this that works is, rather than having a full bathroom as an en-suite, just have the toilet as an en-suite and create a shared shower. This works particularly well in loft conversions where space is tight. You still have the selling point of an ensuite toilet but by removing the shower you make the bedroom bigger.

Top tip: if you install an electric shower in your ‘off-suite’ bathroom then you will always have hot water for tenants to use even if the boiler broke down.


Meet your council’s guidelines

If your HMO is licensable then your local council may have requirements on how the ensuite should be laid out. Many councils have minimum sizes for en-suite bathrooms too so make sure that you check their HMO Guidelines before planning your layout. In the Wirral, the minimum size was increased in 2021 and it had a massive effect on some of our clients’ projects. It is also not uncommon to find Council’s specifying the space required in front of the toilet or sink. They create these minimum space standards in an effort to keep standards high.


Need our help?

Portus Lets are a HMO specialist letting agency based in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool City Centre. We manage HMOs across Liverpool and Wirral and are the go-to agent for many HMO Landlords in the city.

If you are considering an HMO development in Liverpool or Wirral, you might want to check out details on our Project Management Services or also our HMO Management offering.


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