Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Kensington & Chelsea 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 Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is in West London covering an area of 5 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham to the west, Brent to the north, Westminster to the east and with the River Thames to the south. According to the 2011 Census about 36% of the housing stock was privately rented which is well above 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 Kensington & Chelsea 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 Kensington & Chelsea Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, some HMOs do need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales.

You will need an HMO licence if your property:

  • Is three or more storeys high (a storey includes a basement, loft conversion and any storey comprising business premises); and
  • Contains five or more people in two or more households; and
  • Contains shared facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.  

Following a recent government announcement, the mandatory HMO licensing criteria will change on 1 October 2018, bringing thousands more properties within the scope of licensing. The restriction to properties that are three or more storeys in height is being removed.

As such, if your property is occupied by five or more people who are not all related and share facilities, it is highly likely you will need to apply for a licence. It is also important that you submit your application before 1 October 2018 to avoid the risk of enforcement action. To keep up to date with all the latest developments, you can sign up to our free newsletter.  

How much does a licence cost?

According to the council’s website, it says a five-year HMO licence for an average sized property in Kensington and Chelsea may cost up to £1,400.

When we queried this with the council in April 2015, they told us that HMO licence fees are calculated using the West London fee calculator. The standard charge is £1,248.13 plus an additional £12.60 for each room in the property. So that would be about £1,336 for a three-storey property with five single person lettings and a shared kitchen and bathroom.

A discount of about £80 is available for members of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme and there is a further discount if you have already had a fit and proper person assessment in the last 12 months.

This information is correct as of March 2018 but could be subject to change in the future. You can see a brief summary of the HMO licence fees on the council’s website.

How do I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately, there is no online application system – it’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download the application form, complete it by hand and post it back to the council. The form and accompanying guidance notes can be downloaded from the council’s website. Once you click on the link, you will need to scroll down to the section ‘Apply for an HMO licence’.

Alternatively, you can contact the council and ask them to send you an application pack in the post. It will cut down on your printing costs as the form is 20 pages long.

You will need to submit various supporting documents with your application including gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates and a floor plan of your property, so make sure you have got all your paperwork ready.

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.  To find out more, please drop us a line and we will send you further details, or you can study the information published here.  

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Kensington & Chelsea Council have produced a lot of guidance explaining the HMO standards that apply in different types of property. They are available to download from the council’s website.

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

The government have announced they intend to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for licensed HMOs on 1 October 2018 – 6.51m2 for one person and 10.22m2 for two people. The local council will still be able to ask for larger minimum sizes. The standards will apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme. If you are concerned about how this will impact on your properties, please contact us for advice. 

How many properties has the Council licensed?

As of March 2016, Kensington & Chelsea Council had licensed 104 HMOs, an increase of 12 properties in the last twelve months. By July 2017, the number of licensed HMOs had risen to 116 and by March 2018 it had risen to 120.

The council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that is regularly updated and can be viewed online. Once you click on the link, scroll down to the 'Licensing' section where you can view a list of all the properties. It’s nice and simple – we like that!

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Possibly. In March 2015, Kensington and Chelsea Council told us they thought there could be about 300 properties that need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So that suggests there could still be about 180 unlicensed HMOs out there.

If you are the landlord of one of those properties, it's important you act now and get your property licensed to avoid facing 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.

From April 2017 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?

Kensington & Chelsea Council told us they had taken three housing prosecutions over the three years from April 2011 to March 2014, two prosecutions in 2014/15 and two prosecutions in 2015/16, so on average just over one housing prosecution a year. 

The Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last six years (April 2011 to March 2017). 

However, in February 2016, a group of tenants were awarded over £17,000 after their landlord was prosecuted for failing to obtain a mandatory HMO licence for the property they lived in. 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

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 390 accredited landlords in Kensington and Chelsea, which is below average when compared to all London boroughs.

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, they are planning to keep things simple. In March 2015, Kensington & Chelsea Council told us they had no plans to consider a selective or additional licensing scheme.

But things could still change in the future so we'll continue to monitor the situation 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 August 2016, we checked with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who told us there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and no current 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. You can find further information 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: 

HMO Licensing Team
Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Council Offices
37 Pembroke Road
London W8 6PW

Tel:     020 7361 3000

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in Kensington & Chelsea but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7361 3000
Weblink: Kensington & Chelsea HMO licensing

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