London Borough of Hounslow

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Hounslow 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 Hounslow is in west London covering an area of 22 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Hillingdon and Ealing to the north, Hammersmith & Fulham to the east, Harrow and Richmond to the south. According to the 2011 Census about 23% of the housing stock was privately rented which is marginally 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 Hounslow 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. Hounslow Council operate the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England.

The council also had an additional licensing scheme although that scheme ended on 31 May 2019. The council were planning to introduce a replacement scheme in 2019 although those plans have been delayed following the threat of Judicial Review.
To help you decide if you need a licence, we’ve outlined the mandatory HMO licensing schemes and also mentioned the additional licensing scheme that ended in May 2019:

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

Until 31 May 2019, you needed an additional licence if your property was let as a House in Multiple Occupation that did not fall within the remit of the mandatory HMO licensing scheme but it met the following criteria:

  • It was two or more storeys high; and
  • It was occupied by four or more people in two or more households.

The council included ‘section 257 HMOs’ within the 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.

In deciding whether a section 257 HMO needed to be licensed, the council restricted the licensing scheme to those properties where self-contained flats are all in the same ownership. 

Remember, this licensing scheme has now ended.

How much does a licence cost?

Hounslow Council charge a standard HMO licensing fee of £1,250 (was £1,190 in 2018/19, £1,123 in 2017/18, £1,069.36 in 2015/16 & £1,046.34 in 2014/15) regardless of the size of the property.

There is a reduced fee of £1,175 (was £1,107 in 2018/19, £1,044 in 2017/18, £994.36 in 2016/17 & £883.66 in 2015/16) if you are a member of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, a recognised landlord association or a relevant professional body. It is good to see accredited landlords being charged a lower licence fee.

The fees are correct as of September 2019 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the latest fees on the council’s website.

How do I apply for a licence?

The council have recently introduced an online application system which can be accessed from the council’s website.

You will need to provide various supporting documents such as a gas safety certificate, electrical certificate, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates (if any) and a floor plan of the property, so make sure you’ve got 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, Hounslow Council have published HMO standards that 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 February 2015, Hounslow Council told us they had licensed 326 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 261 under the additional licensing scheme.

By December 2016, the council told us the number of licensed properties under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme had reduced to 306, while the number of properties licensed under the additional licensing scheme had increased to 362. In total, there were 668 licensed properties.

When we checked in May 2018, there were 828 properties licensed HMOs on the public register and and by January 2019, the number had increased to 916, although we do not know how this figure is split between the two licensing schemes.

Hounslow Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties that is regularly updated and can be viewed on the council’s website

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Well, it seems like there may be quite a few. In February 2015, Hounslow Council told us that they think 500 to 700 properties need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme with another 2,000 properties covered by their additional licensing scheme. That suggests there could be well over 1,000 unlicensed properties still out there.

If you are the landlord of a licensable but unlicensed property in Hounslow, you need to act now to avoid the consequences.

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?

Hounslow Council told us they took seven housing prosecutions in the three year period from April 2011 to March 2014. A further six prosecutions took place in 2014/15 and five prosecutions in 2015/16, so they are clearly stepping up their enforcement activity.

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

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 398 accredited landlords in Hounslow, which was below average when compared with all London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 518 and by January 2019, that figure had increased to 533, which is 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?

Yes, from 23 January to 3 April 2019, the council consulted on plans to extend their additional licensing scheme for another 5 years (read here). The previous scheme ended on 31 May 2019.

The council want to extend licensing to all HMOs occupied by three or more people, whereas the scheme is currently restricted to HMOs that are two or more storeys and occupied by four or more people.

We understand proposals for an additional licensing scheme were approved at the Cabinet meeting on 9 July 2019. A scheme designation was made on the 1 August 2019 and the scheme was due to come into force on the 1 November 2019.

But that is not the end of the matter. Both the Residential Landlords Association and safeagent raised concerns about deficiencies in the consultation process and threatened to lodge a Judicial Review.

On 6 September 2019, it was announced Hounslow Council were withdrawing the additional licensing scheme designation and no new scheme would be implemented in 2019. Instead, they were going back to the drawing board before deciding whether to launch a new consultation exercise.

There is clearly a lot happening at Hounslow and for all the latest news 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 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.

On 2 November 2016, Hounslow Council made a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction that applies to the Hanworth Ward only. The effect of the Article 4 Direction is to remove permitted development rights so that planning permission is required to change a 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.

According to the council’s website, the HMO Article 4 Direction was confirmed on 29 November 2017 and came into force on 12 January 2018. The changes are not retrospective and so properties converted prior to that date will not be affected. 

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: 

HMO Licensing Team
Hounslow Council
Civic Centre
Lampton Road

Tel:    020 8583 3871

Hounslow News

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No selective licensing in Hounslow although the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide. There is currently no additional licensing scheme.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8583 3871
Weblink: Hounslow property licensing

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