London Borough of Islington

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Islington you have come to the right place! We are experts in housing regulation and have produced this free guide to help you understand the council’s property licensing schemes.

If you find that you need a licence for your rented property our support doesn’t end there. Our Landlord Suppliers Directory (view here) lists companies that offer a licence application handling service. You can also find companies offering a wide range of other goods and services to help you manage your property portfolio and achieve compliance.

To help set the scene, the London Borough of Islington is in North London covering an area of 6 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Camden to the west, Haringey to the north, Hackney to the east and the City of London to the south. According to the 2011 Census, about 27% of the housing stock was privately rented which is slightly higher than the London average of 25% (1 in 4).

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

You need to study the arrangements carefully as there are several licensing schemes in Islington.

On 1 September 2015, Islington Council implemented an additional licensing scheme that applied to all HMOs in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road. The scheme ended on 31 August 2020 and a replacement scheme with a much wider remit started on 1 February 2021.

Islington Council have also introduced a selective licensing scheme that started on 1 February 2021.

Plus, there is the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England.

To help you decide if you need a licence we have outlined the three licensing schemes below:

1. Mandatory HMO licence

You need a mandatory HMO licence if your property meets the standard test, self-contained flat test or converted building test HMO definition in section 254 of the Housing Act 2004 and is occupied by five or more people.

But what are these tests and what does this mean in practice? It means you need a licence for any house or flat that is occupied by five or more people who are not all related and live in the property as their main home. For example, it includes:

  • Shared houses and flats occupied by students and young professionals;
  • Properties converted into bedsits with some shared facilities; and
  • Properties converted into a mixture of self-contained and non self-contained accommodation.

Prior to 1 October 2018, the mandatory HMO licensing scheme only applied to properties that were three or more storeys in height, but that restriction has now been lifted.

The government have decided to exclude purpose built self-contained flats within a block comprising three or more self-contained flats from the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. While this will be good news for some landlords, it does make the licensing scheme far more complicated.

To find out more, you can read our free guide to mandatory HMO licensing (here).  

2. Additional licence 

A new additional licensing scheme started on 1 February 2021 and applies borough wide. You will need an additional licence if your property is let as a House in Multiple Occupation that does not fall within the remit of the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

The House in Multiple Occupation definition is not straightforward and you will need to study it carefully or seek advice. For example, Islington Council have included ‘section 257 HMOs’ within the additional licensing scheme. These are properties that:

  • have been converted into self-contained flats; and
  • less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied; and
  • the conversion did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply.

The council have simplified matters by restricting licensing of section 257 HMOs to situations where all of the flats are privately rented and under one single freehold ownership.

You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the ‘More Information’ box of the right hand side of this page.

3. Selective licence

A selective licensing scheme started on 1 February 2021 and applies to all private rented properties within the Finsbury Park ward. Within this area, you will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single person, a single household or two unrelated people sharing.

If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing scheme will not apply.

To find out which ward you are in, you can use the postcode checker service on the council’s website.

How much does a licence cost?

The cost varies according to the type of licence you are applying for.

Mandatory HMO & additional licence

Islington Council charge a standard HMO licence fee of £288 per letting (was £280 in 2019/20, £270 in 2017/18, £260 in 2015/16), so that would be £1,440 for a shared house with five single person lettings. The council have defined ‘letting’ as a bedsit or bedroom in a shared house.

Accredited landlords and property managers can get a licence fee discount of £43 per letting, which we think is a good idea.

Different fee rates apply for section 257 HMOs.

Selective licence

There is a standard fee of £500 per property, with a £75 discount for accredited landlords and property managers.

All licence application fees are payable in two instalments.

The fees are correct as of March 2022, but could be subject to change in the future. You can check the fees on the council’s website (you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page).

How do I apply for a licence?

Islington Council have introduced an online licence application and payment system that can be accessed via the council’s website.

If you need assistance with your licence application, you can find companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here). We also offer a licence application handling service and you can find further information here. Simply complete the online enquiry form and we will send you a quote.

It is important to remember that submitting a licence application is only the start of the licence approval process. To help landlords understand what happens next, we have published a free guide here.

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Islington Council’s HMO standards can be downloaded from the council’s website (you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page).

The standards cover a range of issues such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities, fire precautions, heating, lighting, ventilation and room sizes.

It is important to note that new absolute minimum bedroom sizes for licensed HMOs have been introduced for HMO licence applications approved on or after 1 October 2018:

  • 4.64m2 for a child under 10 years old
  • 6.51m2 for one person over 10 years old
  • 10.22m2 for two people over 10 years old

The council can still ask for larger minimum sizes. These new minimum sizes apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme.

How many properties has the Council licensed?

In February 2015, Islington Council had licensed 312 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, although a year later, that figure has risen to 360, an increase of 48.

In June 2017, we found there were 283 properties licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 207 properties licensed under the additional licensing scheme.

In May 2019, we found there were 344 properties licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 243 properties licensed under the additional licensing scheme.

In November 2021, the council told us they had licensed 461 properties under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, 861 properties licensed under the additional licensing scheme and 272 properties under the selective licensing scheme.

The council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which is regularly updated. It can be viewed on the council’s website (click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page).

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In May 2019, Islington Council told us that think there could be 566 properties that need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

In a Cabinet report published in March 2020, Islington Council said they think there could be 3,500 properties that need licensing under the additional licensing scheme and 2,000 properties that need licensing under the selective licensing scheme.

If you are one of the landlords who has not yet applied for a licence, we would encourage you to act now to avoid a hefty financial penalty.

What happens if I don't get a licence?

Ignore the law and you could pay a heavy price. You risk being prosecuted by the council and if found guilty you could get a criminal record, be fined an unlimited amount and ordered to pay court costs and a victim surcharge.

Alternatively, the council can issue you with a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000 for not having the correct licence without any warning being given, so this is really serious stuff.  

You could also be subject to a Rent Repayment Order and may have to repay up to 12 months rental income.

Whilst the property is unlicensed, you can’t use a Notice of Seeking Possession under Section 21 Housing Act 1988 to evict your tenants. 
And following a successful prosecution, you would probably fail a fit and proper person assessment, making it very difficult for you to obtain a property licence in the future.

Don’t put your livelihood and reputation at risk. Make sure you comply with the law.

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Islington Council told us they took nine separate housing prosecutions over the three years from April 2011 to March 2014, plus a further six prosecutions in 2014/15 and six prosecutions in 2015/16. They do seem to be stepping up their enforcement activity.

Islington Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016.

For all the latest information, you can search for housing prosecutions on the Mayor of London’s ‘Rogue landlord and agent checker’, available here.

How many accredited landlords are there?

There are landlord accreditation schemes operated by the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).  

Whilst we don’t have any figures for the NLA or RLA schemes, we have got information about the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme that is supported by all the London Boroughs. In January 2016, they told us there were 635 accredited landlords in Islington, which placed them in the top quartile of all London boroughs.

January 2018: 921 accredited landlords
January 2019: 976 accredited landlords
January 2020: 1,045 accredited landlords
January 2021: 1,132 accredited landlords

By January 2022 there were 1,335 accredited landlords which is well above average when compared to all the London boroughs. To find out more about becoming accredited, you can visit the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme website here.

In addition to training and development, accredited landlords are entitled to various benefits, including discounted licensing fees in some boroughs. If you are not already a member, we would encourage you to think about joining!

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

Yes, in a surprise move, Islington Council held a selective licensing consultation from 23 December 2021 to 27 March 2022. Less than 12 months after the Finsbury Park selective licensing scheme came into force, the council consulted on plans to revoke the existing scheme and designate a new scheme covering the Finsbury Park, Tollington and Hillrise wards based on new ward boundaries. You can find more information on the council’s website.

Islington Council priviously consulted on plans for a borough wide additional licensing scheme and a selective licensing scheme in Finsbury Park from 5 August to 3 November 2019.

A borough wide additional licensing scheme together with a selective licensing scheme in Finsbury Park ward was approved at the council’s Executive meeting on 19 March 2020 (here – see agenda item 706). The new schemes came into force on 1 February 2021.

Previously, on 12 March 2015 the council’s executive approved an additional licensing scheme that started on 1 September 2015. That scheme applied to all HMOs in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road but ended on 31 August 2020. For more background information, you can read the Executive Report.

Do I need planning permission for my HMO?

You will need planning permission if you are changing your property from a single-family property to a house in multiple occupation (HMO) occupied by more than six people. HMOs occupied by more than six people fall within ‘sui-generis’ use for which planning permission is required. You will also need planning permission if you a splitting up a property into smaller self-contained units of accommodation.

For small HMOs, the rules are a bit more complicated. HMOs occupied and shared by between three and six people fall into planning use class C4 whereas single-family properties fall into planning use class C3.

In February 2021, we checked the council's website and found there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force.

This means that you do not need planning permission for a change of use from a single-family property (use class C3) to a small HMO shared by three to six unrelated residents (use class C4), although the situation could change in the future.

Remember that this is only intended as general advice and no liability can be accepted for any reliance upon information provided. We would strongly encourage you to contact the Council’s Planning Department or seek independent legal advice before you start a new HMO development. You can find out more information on the council’s website

Can you help me find the goods and services I need?

We certainly can. We understand the challenges of being a private landlord and so we have developed a Landlord Suppliers Directory to provide you with access to the goods and services you need. The Directory concentrates on businesses that operate in the London area.

Whether you a looking for a letting agent, want a property inventory for a new tenancy or fire risk assessment, we have got it covered – and far more besides!

As the leading experts in property licensing, we also offer a range of services ourselves. From handling the licence application process to advice on new HMO developments, we can help to ensure your property business remains compliant. If you need assistance, please drop us a line and see if we can help!

New suppliers are regularly being added and we would encourage you to take a look. Some of our featured listings also contain YouTube videos, helping you to find out more about the business. 

How do I find out more?

You can contact the council at: 

HMO Licensing Team
Islington Council
3rd Floor
222 Upper Street
N1 1XR

Tel:     020 7527 3205

Islington News

Islington Events

Islington Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO and additional licensing applies borough wide. Selective licensing applies to part of the borough.

Islington Council recently consulted on plans for a new selective licensing scheme.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7527 3205
Weblink: Islington property licensing

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