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. Our Landlord Suppliers Directory (view here) lists companies that offer a licence application handling service. You can also find companies offering a wide range of other goods and services to help you manage your property portfolio and achieve compliance.

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.

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 answer is not easy to find. In June 2021, the council’s website said a five-year HMO licence for an average sized property in Kensington and Chelsea may cost up to £1,400. A year later, it simply says there is no flat fee and the fee will be calculated upon receipt of a valid application.

This information is correct as of June 2022 but could be subject to change in the future. You can find a brief mention of HMO licensing fees on the council’s website.

How do I apply for a licence?

The council have implemented a new online application system which can be accessed via the council’s website.

If you need assistance with your licence application, you can find companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here). Whilst we do handle some applications, we have limited capacity and specialise in more complex cases where we provide our clients with expert advice and assistance.

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, 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.

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?

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, by March 2018 there were 120, by May 2019 there were 123 and by September 2020 there were 157 licensed HMOs.

When we last checked in June 2022, the public register listed 153 licensed HMOs.

The council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that is regularly updated and can be viewed online.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In May 2019, Kensington and Chelsea Council told us they thought there could be about 200 properties that need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So that suggests there could be about 40 licensable but unlicensed HMOs.

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.

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Kensington & Chelsea Council told us they took 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 did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the six years from 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 was below average when compared to all London boroughs.

January 2018: 463 accredited landlords
January 2019: 493 accredited landlords
January 2020: 564 accredited landlords
January 2021: 613 accredited landlords

By January 2022 there were 764 accredited landlords which is in the bottom 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, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea consulted on plans to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme between 29 March and 20 June 2021. You can find out more information on the council’s website.

As of June 2022, we are still awaiting a decision on what happens next. You can sign up to our free newsletter to receive all the latest news.

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 7341 5714

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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.

A public consultation on plans to implement an additional licensing scheme took place from 29 March to 20 June 2021.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7341 5714
Weblink: Kensington & Chelsea HMO licensing

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