London Borough of Sutton

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Sutton 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 Sutton is in South West London covering an area of 17 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Kingston upon Thames to the west, Merton to the north, Croydon to the east and with Surrey to the south west. According to the 2011 Census, about 16% of the housing stock was privately rented which is well below 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 Sutton 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 Sutton 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?

Sutton Council HMO licence fees vary according to the number of lettings.

The standard fee is £240 (was £185 in 2017/18 & £180 in 2015/2016) per letting, so that would be £1,200 for a three-storey shared house with five single person lettings. There are no discounts listed for accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees we’ve listed are correct as of December 2018 but could be subject to change in the future. When we last checked, the fees were not listed on the council’s website, although you will find them printed on page 8 of the licence application form that you can download from here

How do I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately, there is no online application system – it’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download an HMO licence application form from the council’s website, print it out and complete it by hand.

Alternatively, you can contact the council and ask them to send you a licence application pack in the post.

You will need to supply various supporting documentation such as gas and electrical certificates, and fire alarm and emergency lighting test reports (if applicable), so make sure you have 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. 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, Sutton Council have adopted HMO standards although last time we checked they were not available on the council’s website. In March 2015, the council kindly send us a copy that you can download from the ‘More information’ box on the right on this page. After all, we like to try and make your life a bit easier!

The 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?

In March 2015, Sutton Council told us they had licensed 28 HMOs. We last checked in February 2017 and there were 30 listed, so not much difference.

Sutton Council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs although it seems to have disappeared from the council’s website so you will need to contact them if you want to view the register.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

We don’t really know. Sutton Council have told us they have no information about the number of licensable HMOs in the borough. There’s not much more we can say.

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 get your property licensed! (find out more

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Sutton Council told us they took two housing prosecution over the five year period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2016 plus a further two prosecutions in 2016/17, so it seems they are starting to step up their housing enforcement activity.

Sutton Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the six years from April 2011 to March 2017. 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 296 accredited landlords in Sutton, which is the 5th lowest out of all London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased slightly to 309, although they had dropped to the 3rd lowest 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?

No, it seems not. There are keeping things simple! In December 2015, Sutton Council told us they were not considering the introduction of a selective or additional licensing scheme.

We will 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 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.

In December 2015, we checked with Sutton Council and were told they do not have an HMO Article 4 Direction in force and there are no plans to consult on one. More information about Article 4 Directions is available on the council’s website

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).

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. 

How do I find out more?

You can contact the council at: 

Environmental Health Team
Sutton Council
Civic Offices
St Nicholas Way
Sutton
Surrey SM1 1EA

Email: Environmentalhealth@sutton.gov.uk
Tel:       020 8770 5000
Website: www.sutton.gov.uk

Sutton News

Sutton Events

Sutton Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in Sutton but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8770 5000
Email: Environmentalhealth@sutton.gov.uk
Weblink: Sutton HMO licensing

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