Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Kingston 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 Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames is in South West London covering an area of 14 square miles. Situated on the edge of outer London it is bordered by the boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton to the east and Richmond and the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 22% of the housing stock was privately rented which is slightly lower than the London average of 25% (1 in 4). 

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

You do not need a licence if you rent your property to a single family as Kingston Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme.

If you rent out your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Kingston Council operate both an additional licensing scheme and the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England.

The additional licensing scheme came into force on 21 December 2012 and applied borough wide. The scheme lasted for five years and ended on 20 December 2017. A replacement additional licensing scheme started on 1 March 2018 and continues for another five years.
To help you decide if you need a licence, we have outlined the two licensing schemes below:

1. Mandatory HMO licensing

You will 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 licensing

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 but it meets the following criteria:

  • It is one or two storeys high and occupied by five or more people; or
  • It is three or more storeys high and occupied by three or four people

We believe Kingston Council have excluded section 257 HMOs from their licensing scheme although their website is not that clear so you may wish to contact them directly to check. 

How much does a licence cost?

Kingston Council’s HMO licensing fees vary according to the size of the building.

In a property one or two storeys high, the fee is £200 (was £135 in 2015/16) per room available for letting. So that would be £1,000 (was £675 in 2015/16) for a five bed shared house.

In a property three or more storeys high, the fee is £240 (was £200 in 2015/16) per room available for letting. So that would be £1,200 (was £1,000 in 2015/16) for a five bed shared house.

There is a discount of £100 if the licence holder or designated manager is a member of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme or another approved scheme. Further discounts are available for licence renewals.

There is an extra £300 fee if the council find you are operating a licensable but unlicensed property – they may also prosecute you, so you need to act quickly!

The fees are correct as of November 2021 but may be subject to change in the future. You can find the fees listed on the council’s website

How do I apply for a licence?

You can apply and pay online via the council's website. Alternatively, you can download an application form to complete by hand.

In addition to completing the application form, they ask you to provide various supporting information so make sure you have all your paperwork ready.  

If you need assistance with your licence application, you can find companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here). Whilst we do handle some applications, we have limited capacity and specialise in more complex cases where we provide our clients with expert advice and assistance.

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, Kingston Council's HMO Standards can be downloaded from the council’s website.

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

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?

As of March 2016, Kingston Council had licensed 319 HMOs, an increase of 67 over the last twelve months.

In October 2016, the Council announced that 170 properties were licensed under the mandatory HMO scheme and a further 165 properties under the additional licensing scheme, a further increase to 335 properties.

By March 2018, there were 430 licensed HMOs and by May 2019, the number had increased to 611.

By January 2021, the number of licensed HMOs listed in the public register on the council’s website had reduced to 513. This included 349 mandatory HMO licences and 164 additional licences.

The council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which can be viewed on the council's website.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In March 2015, Kingston Council told us they had no estimate for the number of properties that need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. But when the additional licensing scheme was implemented in 2012, they thought the scheme would cover 500 to 1,000 properties.

However, in May 2019, after the mandatory HMO licensing criteria had changed, the council estimated there were 500 properties licensable under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 100 properties licensable under their additional licensing scheme.

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?

Kingston Council told us they took one housing prosecution over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016, so that puts them at the lower end of the prosecution league table when compared to other London boroughs. The prosecution was not for a licensing offence.

Kingston 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 300 accredited landlords in Kingston upon Thames, which was in the bottom quartile when compared to all London boroughs.

By January 2018, there were 420 accredited landlords, by January 2019 there were 482 accredited landlords, by January 2020 there were 522 accredited landlords and by January 2021 there were 547 accredited landlords, which is in the bottom five 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?

A replacement additional licensing scheme was introduced on 1 March 2018. The decision was confirmed at the council’s Housing Sub-Committee meeting on 2 November 2017 (read here). We will explain the background to this decision.

From 7 October to 16 December 2016 the council consulted on plans to renew their additional licensing scheme. Unfortunately, no one from the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames told us they were consulting and so we were unable to tell anyone!

When we carried out further checks in June 2017, we found the council were doing another round of consultation on proposals to renew the additional licensing scheme. The council said the consultation was open until 6 August 2017 although that was later extended to September 2017. You can find out more information about the consultation on the  council’s website.

There is clearly a lot going on in Kingston upon Thames so we will monitor the situation closely and keep you posted. You can sign up to our free newsletter for all the latest news. 

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 July 2016, we checked with Kingston Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and no immediate plans to introduce one.

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. Further information can be found 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: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Kingston Council
Guildhall 2
High Street
Kingston upon Thames

Tel:      020 8547 5003

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO and additional licensing applies borough wide. There is no selective licensing scheme in Kingston upon Thames.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8547 5003
Weblink: Kingston HMO licensing

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