London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Richmond upon Thames 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 HMO licensing scheme.

If you find that you need a licence for your rented property our support doesn’t end there. We can handle the licence application process and give you expert advice and guidance along the way (read here). Once you have read through our guide, if you do need any assistance you can contact us here.  

We also have a Landlord Suppliers Directory (here) to help you find the goods and services you need in the London area, with new suppliers regularly added. 

To help set the scene, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is in South West London covering an area of 22 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Wandsworth to the east, Kingston to the south, Hounslow to the north and with Surrey to the west. 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 Richmond Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme.

If you rent your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Whilst Richmond Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, some HMOs do need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England.

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).

How much does a licence cost?

The licence application fee varies according to the number of bedrooms occupied by different households.

For a shared house with five single person lettings, the total cost is now £1,737 (was £1,400 in 2016/17), payable in two instalments.

The first instalment is payable when you apply and the second instalment is payable when the council are ready to grant the licence. It says the same fees are charged for licence renewals.

There aren’t any discounts listed for accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees are correct as of September 2019 and may be subject to change. The fees can be viewed in full on the council’s website. Once you click on the link, you will need to scroll down the page to the section called ‘HMO licence costs’.

How can I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately, there is no facility to apply online. It’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download an application form from the council’s website, print it out and complete it by hand. Once you click on the link, scroll down the page to the ‘How to apply’ section.

The application form asks for various supporting documents such as gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates and a floor plan, 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). We also handle some applications, although we specialise in more complex cases where we provide our clients with expert advice and assistance. Our licence application handling service is explained here.

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, Richmond Council has adopted HMO standards which all licensed HMOs must comply with. The standards can be downloaded from the council’s website.

There is one guide on general standards in HMOs and a separate guide on fire precautions in HMOs.

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 March 2015, Richmond Council told us they had licensed 48 Houses in Multiple Occupation. In August 2016, there were 49 licensed HMOs, by October 2018 the number had increased to 55 and by May 2019 the council told us they had licensed 82 HMOs.

Every council must have a public register of licensed HMOs. Richmond Council have published a summary of the public register that can be viewed on the council’s website. When you link on the link, you will need to scroll down to the section called ‘HMO Register’.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In March 2015, Richmond Council told us they estimate there could be 60 to 70 Houses in Multiple Occupation that require a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

In May 2019, the council said their estimate had increased slightly, but they seemed to think that most licensable HMOs had already been licensed.

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. We can help you get your property licensed! (find out more

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Richmond Council told us they did not take any housing prosecutions over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016, so that put them at the bottom of the housing prosecution league table when compared to all London Boroughs.

Richmond Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the six years from April 2011 to March 2017. This is based on data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

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

The council have told us that landlords operating in the borough are generally compliant and that those who are not usually respond to warnings and get any necessary works done.

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 396 accredited landlords in Richmond upon Thames, which is below average when compared to all the London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 702 and by January 2019 that figure had increased to 743, which is slightly below 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?

No, it seems not. They are keeping things simple. In March 2015, Richmond Council told us they had no plans to implement additional or selective licensing although things may change again in the future.

To make your life a bit easier, we will keep an eye on things and will let you know if anything changes.

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 September 2019, we checked the council’s website and found no record of any HMO Article 4 Direction being made.

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 about Article 4 Directions 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: 

The Residential Team
Richmond upon Thames Council
Civic Centre
44 York Street
Twickenham TW1 3BZ

Email: privatehousing@merton.gov.uk 
Tel:      020 8487 5123
Website: www.richmond.gov.uk

Richmond Upon Thames News

Richmond Upon Thames Events

Richmond Upon Thames Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in Richmond but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8487 5123
Email:  privatehousing@merton.gov.uk
Weblink: Richmond HMO licensing

Water for Kids charity advert
Sign up to our London Property Licensing newsletter