London Borough of Brent

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Brent 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. 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 Brent is in North London covering an area of 16 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Ealing to the west, Barnet and Camden to the east, Harow to the north and with Hammersmith & Fullham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster to the south. According to the 2011 Census about 30% (1 in 3) of the housing stock was privately rented which is higher than the London average of 25% (1 in 4).

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

There is a high chance you will need a licence to rent out your property in Brent although you need to study the arrangements carefully as some of the licensing schemes only apply to part of the borough. We will try to explain.

On 1 January 2015, Brent Council implemented a borough wide additional licensing scheme together with a selective licensing scheme that only covers part of the borough. Both schemes operate for five years until 31 December 2019. A second selective licensing scheme started on 1 June 2018. 

There is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies across England. So in total, there are three separate licensing schemes.

If you think you may need a licence, you now need to decide which one. We will try to help you choose the right licence for your property.

1. Mandatory HMO licence

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 licence

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. So licensing applies to all HMOs in Brent.

Whilst the current scheme ends on 31 December 2019, the council have approved a new licensing scheme with the same criteria that will come into force on 1 February 2020 and continue for another five years.

The House in Multiple Occupation definition is not straightforward and you will need to study it carefully or seek advice. For example, Brent 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.

So a building containing both owner-occupied and rented flats may need one licence for the whole building. This is a complex area of law and you may need further advice.

3. Selective Licence

You will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single person, couple or single household and is located in the council wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central or Willesden Green. This scheme ends on 31 December 2019, although the council are seeking government approval to extend it for another five years – watch this space for further updates.

On 1 June 2018, a second selective licensing scheme was introduced covering the council wards of Dudden Hill, Kensal Green, Kilburn, Mapesbury and Queen's Park and this scheme continues until 2023.

If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing scheme does not apply - at least not yet. The council are trying to get approval for selective licensing in three more areas. 

This adds another layer of complexity as most landlords won’t be familiar with the ward boundaries and neither will tenants or agents. If you think your property might be in one of these wards, you can check using the council’s My Location service

In summary, if you rent out a House in Multiple Occupation in Brent, it will need to be licensed. If you rent out a property to a single family, it will need to be licensed if it is in the council wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central, Willesden Green, Dudden Hill, Kensal Green, Kilburn, Mapesbury or Queen's Park.

How much does a licence cost?

In Brent, it depends on the type of licence you are applying for.

For a mandatory HMO licence, Brent Council charge a standard fee of £840 (was £540 in 2017/18) for a shared house with up to five habitable rooms (i.e. bedroom, living or dining room). Each extra habitable room costs an extra £25. For renewals it is £740.

For an additional licence, the council charge a standard fee of £840 (was £540 in 2017/18). For renewals it is £740.

For a selective licence, the council charge a standard fee of £540 (was £340 in 2017/18) per property for a five-year licence. For renewals it is £440.

There is an extra fee of £100 if you need help completing the forms.

If the landlord only applies after the unlicensed properties is identified by the council, there is an extra £300 fee. The council could also prosecute or issue a civil penalty of up to £30,000!

There is a £40 discount for accredited landlords. 

The fees we have listed were correct as of November 2019 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees in full on the council’s website

How do I apply for a licence?

Brent Council offers a fully integrated online application and payment system for mandatory HMO, additional and selective licensing! You can apply by visiting the council's website

We have found the application system quite temperamental, with applications sometimes being deleted for no apparent reason. We have raised this with the council and hope they can fix the problem.

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, the Brent HMO standards can be downloaded from the council’s website. The standards cover a range of issues such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities, fire precautions, heating, lighting and ventilation. 

We couldn’t find any minimum room sizes published on Brent Council’s website so we checked this with them. In February 2015, they told us that the following room sizes apply in shared houses:

(i) Any room less than 6.5m² is not suitable for occupation.

(ii) One Person Units of Accommodation:
      6.5 m² where provided with a separate shared kitchen
      10.2 m² where the room contains kitchen facilities

(iii) Two person units of accommodation:
       10.2 m² where provided with a separate shared kitchen
       13.9 m² where the room contains kitchen facilities

The standard is to be applied irrespective of the age of the occupants

These standards only apply to HMOs licensed under the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes. They don’t apply to the selective licensing scheme.

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 2016, Brent Council told us they had licensed 4,765 properties:

  • 340 mandatory HMO licences (214 in Jan 2015);
  • 1,130 additional licences (50 in Jan 2015); and
  • 3,295 selective licences (239 in Jan 2015).

In May 2019, Brent Council told us they had licensed 11,550 properties:

  • 1,114 mandatory HMO licences;
  • 2,296 additional licences; and
  • 8,140 selective licences.

A further 282 licence applications had been received and were being processed by the council.

Brent Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which is available on the council’s website. Once you click on the link, scroll to the ‘Related documents’ section at the bottom of the page.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, it would seem so. In May 2019, Brent Council told us they thought there were about 16,000 licensable HMOs plus a further 8,274 rented properties covered by the selective licensing scheme. This suggests there are still thousands of rented properties where no licence application has yet been submitted.

If you are a landlord or letting agent operating in Brent, it’s vital you make sure your properties are licensed before the council comes knocking on your door.

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! (find out more)

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Whilst Brent Council told us they did not take any housing prosecutions over three years between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2014, things have changed a lot since then.

Brent Council took seven housing prosecutions in 2014/15, ten housing prosecutions in 2015/16 and forty housing prosecutions in 2016/17, representing a huge increase compared to the previous three years.   

The council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the four year period from April 2011 to March 2015. One Rent Repayment Order was obtained in 2015/16 – an unlicensed HMO landlord was ordered to repay over £7,000 of housing benefit to the council.

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 685 accredited landlords in Brent, which was the 4th highest out of all London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 857 and by January 2019 that figure had increased to 976, which is in the top 10 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, Brent Council recently consulted on proposals to extend property licensing in the borough.

The consultation was open from 10 June to 25 August 2019 and you can find our more information on the council’s website.

On 14 October 2019, the council’s Cabinet decided to renew the additional licensing scheme for another five years, starting on 1 February 2020 (read here – see agenda item 11).

The council are also applying to the Secretary of State for approval to introduce four new selective licensing schemes – to renew the scheme covering the Harlesden, Willesden Green and Wembley Central wards and introduce new selective licensing areas in:

  • Queensbury, Fryent and Brondesbury Park
  • Barnhill and Welsh Harp
  • Northwick Park, Preston, Toyngton, Alperton and Sudbury

Brent Council already operates borough wide additional licensing and two selective licensing schemes. The most recent scheme came into force on 1 June 2018.

The consultation on the previous selective licensing scheme took place from September to December 2016 and the council received over 1,200 responses.

On 19 June 2017, a report was presented to the council’s cabinet meeting recommending the implementation of six new selective licensing schemes covering a further 18 council wards (read here). The proposal was then sent to the Secretary of State who agreed the council could extend selective licensing to a further five wards.

To keep up to date with all the latest changes, you can sign up to our free newsletter.

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 also need planning permission if you a splitting up a property into smaller self-contained units of accommodation. 

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

On 21 October 2019, Brent Council made a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction. A public consultation is taking place from 24 October to 5 December 2019 and you can find out more information on the council’s website.

When the Direction comes into force, planning permission will be required to change any property from a single-family home (C3) to an HMO with up to six occupants (class C4). So even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

The Direction is expected to come into force on 1 November 2020. The changes are not retrospective and so until that date, properties can still be converted under permitted development rules.

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. 

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: 

Property Licensing Team
Brent Council
Brent Civic Centre
Engineers Way
Wembley
HA9 0FJ

Email: prslicensing@brent.gov.uk
Tel:     020 8937 2384
Website: www.brent.gov.uk

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO & additional licensing schemes apply borough wide and two selective licensing schemes cover part of the borough.

The additional and one selective licensing scheme end on 31 Dec 2019. A new additional licensing scheme starts on 1 Feb 2020. The council are seeking approval for new selective licensing schemes.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8937 2384
Email: prslicensing@brent.gov.uk
Weblink: Brent property licensing

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