London Borough of Harrow

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Harrow 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 London Borough of Harrow is in North West London covering an area of 19 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Hillingdon to the west, Ealing and Brent to the south, Barnet to the east and with the county of Hertfordshire to the north. According to the 2011 Census, about 22% of the housing stock was privately rented which is slightly below 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 Harrow. To help you decide if you need a licence, we have outlined the different 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

The additional licensing scheme started on 1 March 2016 and runs for five years until 28 February 2021, unless the council decide to implement a replacement scheme.

It applies borough wide to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that do not already need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme i.e. any houses or flats occupied by three or more people who are not all members of the same household or family.

The council have also included ‘section 257 HMOs’ in the 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.

This is a quite a complex area of law and you may need further advice on whether your property is a 'section 257 HMO'. You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the ‘More Information’ box of the right hand side of this page. 

3. Selective Licensing

In Harrow, there are three separate selective licensing schemes, as outlined below:

Selective licensing scheme 1 - Edgware Ward
On 7 December 2015, Harrow Council introduced a selective licensing scheme in the Edgware Council ward and the scheme will operate for five years. You can view the scheme designation here. When you click on the link, you will find it under 'Related information' on the right of the page. 

Selective licensing scheme 2 – Wealdstone Ward
A second selective licensing scheme came into force in Wealdstone Ward on 1 June 2016 and will operate for five years. You can view the scheme designation here. When you click on the link, you will find it under 'Related information' on the right of the page. 

Selective licensing scheme 3 - Roxbourne & Roxeth Wards
A third selective licensing scheme came into force in Roxbourne & Roxeth Wards on 14 March 2018 and will operate for less than three years until 13 December 2020. It is unclear why the scheme is not operating for five years. 

In practice, almost every private rented home in these three selective licensing areas will need to be licensed, regardless of whether the property (house or flat) is let out to a single person, couple or single household. There are very few exemptions.

This adds another layer of complexity as most landlords won’t be familiar with the ward boundaries and neither will tenants or agents. There is an interactive map where you can check if your property falls within the selective licensing areas.

If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing schemes do not apply, although the building may still need licensing if it is a self-contained flat within a ‘Section 257’ HMO.

How much does a licence cost?

It depends on the type of licence you are applying for.

Mandatory HMO Licensing

Harrow Council charges a standard HMO licence fee of £1,310 (was £1,250 in 2017/18) for new applications and £930 (was £885 in 2017/18) for renewals.

Additional Licensing

When we last checked in October 2018, Harrow Council were still advertising the old rates for additional licence applications i.e. £1,250 for new applications and £885 for renewals. Different rates apply for section 257 HMOs i.e. certain buildings converted into flats.

Selective Licensing

We understand Harrow Council still charges a standard fee of £550 although when we last checked in October 2018, the cost had disappeared from the council’s website.

Each scheme offers a £75 discount for accredited landlords, which we think is a good idea, although unfortunately it only applies to your first application. After that, you have to pay the full application fee for each subsequent property.

The fees were correct as of October 2018 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees in full on the council’s website. Mandatory HMO licensing fees are published here, additional licensing fees are published here and selective licensing fees are published here

How do I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately you can’t apply online - it’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, for a mandatory HMO licence you can download an application form from the Harrow Council website complete it by hand and send it back. 

For a selective licence you can download a different application form from the council's website.

Alternatively, you can contact the council and ask them to send you an application pack in the post, which will save on your printing costs.

When we last checked in October 2018, there was no additional licensing application form available to download from the council’s website, so you may want to ask them which form to use.

If you need assistance with your licence application we can help you! We offer a unique hassle-free, one-stop-shop service to handle your licence application from start to finish and all for a fixed fee. As part of the service, we carry out an inspection of your property and provide expert advice on compliance. You can find out more about our licence application handling service here.

You can also find other companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here).

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, the Harrow 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. 

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 April 2015, Harrow Council told us they had licensed 114 properties under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 226 properties under the additional licensing scheme, so 340 HMOs in total.

In November 2015, the council reported that 401 HMOs had been licensed; 132 under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 269 under the additional licensing scheme, an increase of 61.

In November 2016, the council had licensed 749 properties. Of those, 395 were HMOs under the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes, plus 354 properties under the selective licensing schemes.

In November 2017, the council had licensed 885 properties. Of those, 377 were HMOs under the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes, plus 508 properties under the selective licensing schemes.

By October 2018,  the council had licensed 1,227 properties. Of those, 446 were HMOs under the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes, plus 781 properties under the selective licensing schemes.

Harrow Council keeps public registers of all licensed properties that are regularly updated. The HMO register can be viewed here and the selective licensing register can be viewed here. Once you click on the link, you will need to scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Possibly. Harrow Council have told us their last house condition survey was in 2000 so it is difficult to estimate the number of properties covered by the mandatory HMO or additional licensing schemes, although we think it could be thousands of properties. 

In relation to selective licensing, the Harrow Council told us in June 2016 they think there could be up to 900 licensable properties in Edgware and at least 500 licensable properties in Wealdstone. In their December 2017 Cabinet report, it indicated they may be another 1,000 licensable properties in Roxbourne and 850 in Roxeth.

So it seems there are probably a large number of properties that require licensing but where no applications have yet been submitted.

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?

Harrow Council told us they took two housing prosecutions over the three year period from April 2011 to March 2014. They took a further two prosecutions in 2014/15 and two in 2015/16, so their enforcement action is starting to increase. 

The council have not obtained 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 412 accredited landlords in Harrow, which was below average when compared to all the London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 745, which is 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?

The council’s latest licensing scheme was introduced in March 2018. To date, Harrow Council have introduced three selective licensing schemes and an additional licensing scheme.

The development process for these licensing schemes is outlined below:

Selective Licensing

From 20 July 2015 to 31 October 2015, the council carried out a consultation on a proposed selective licensing scheme in Wealdstone Ward. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell us and so we were unable to tell you and give you the opportunity to take part.

On 18 February 2016, Harrow Council approved plans for this second selective licensing scheme, which came into force on 1 June 2016. You can view the Cabinet Report here – see agenda item 345.

From 23 January to 28 April 2017 Harrow council consulted on plans to extend selective licensing to the Roxbourne and Roxeth Wards.

On 7 December 2017, Harrow Council approved plans for this third selective licensing scheme which came into force on 14 March 2018. You can view the Cabinet Report here - see agenda item 631.

Additional Licensing

Harrow Council’s previous additional licensing scheme expired on 31 October 2015. It had only included two storey HMOs occupied by four or more people.

From 14 May to 14 August 2015, Harrow Council carried out a public consultation on proposals to renew their additional licensing scheme for a further five years. 

On 19 November 2015, Harrow Council approved plans for a new borough wide additional licensing scheme for all HMOs, which came into force on 1 March 2016, but has not been very well promoted. Even we didn't find out about the scheme until April 2016! You can view the Cabinet Report here – see agenda item 278.

There is clearly a lot happening at Harrow so we will monitor the situation closely and keep you posted.

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 June 2016, Harrow Council told us there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and the council is not actively looking to introduce one at the current time.

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. 

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: 

Environmental Health Team
Harrow Council
PO Box 18
Civic Centre
Station Road
Harrow
HA1 2UT

Email: residential.licensing@harrow.gov.uk
Tel:      not available
Website: www.harrow.gov.uk

Harrow News

Harrow Events

Harrow Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide. There is selective licensing in the Edgware, Wealdstone, Roxbourne and Roxeth council wards.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Property Licensing
Tel:
not available
Email: residential.licensing@harrow.gov.uk
Weblink: Property licensing

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