Three week countdown: the mandatory HMO licensing rules change on 1 October 2018. Are you ready?

Monday, September 10th, 2018 -

With just three weeks to go until the mandatory HMO licensing rules change across England, London Property Licensing is publishing the fourth of six weekly updates to raise awareness of the new licensing requirements and help landlords to prepare.

On 1 October 2018, the mandatory HMO licensing scheme is being extended to most Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are occupied by five or more people who are not all related and where there is some sharing of facilities. The scheme was previously restricted to properties that were three or more storeys in height.

One of the few exemptions will apply to multi-occupied self-contained flats within purpose built blocks where the building comprises three or more self-contained flats. The government have decided to exclude such properties from the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

How do I apply for a mandatory HMO licence?

Across London, every borough has a different licence application process which makes matters more challenging for landlords and agents that operate across a wide area. There is a similar variation in application processes across all English local authorities.

Based on research by London Property Licensing (Sept 2018), almost half (49%) of London councils offer an online application system that can be accessed and completed via the council’s website. Some systems have been developed in-house whilst others have been developed by third party providers. This can help to streamline the process and usually provides an automated acknowledgment to confirm receipt of the application.

Somewhat surprisingly, twelve years after mandatory HMO licensing was first introduced, over a third (36%) of London councils still operate using hard copy application forms that must be downloaded from the council’s website, completed and returned by post or email together with copies of supporting documentation.

Two London councils (6%) – Bromley and Kingston upon Thames – provide the option to download an application form from the council’s website or submit an application via the website.

Two London councils (6%) – City of London and Merton – advise landlords to phone or email the council to ask for an application form as it cannot be downloaded from the council’s website.

One London council (3%) – Hackney – says on its website an online system will go live on 25 September. This will give landlords just six days to apply. It is not known whether alternative paper application forms are available in the meantime.

Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing commented:

This latest research shows we are still a long way from the concept of digital by default when it comes to property licensing. With many thousands of applications expected across the country, this mountain of paperwork will drive up administrative costs as officers start to read, scan and upload every postal application received.

Looking forwards, we need local or central government to develop a simple, consistent and user friendly online application system that captures all necessary information regardless of where a property is located“.

How to find out more

The London Property Licensing website contains a free guide to the property licensing schemes in every London Borough. Simply click on ‘Select borough’ at the top right of the page to check the rules in your borough.

A free guide to mandatory HMO licensing which is relevant to landlords and letting agents across England and can be found here.

A number of events are being held in September where landlords can find out more about the changes to mandatory HMO licensing. Details can be found in our London events guide here.

Need help? Several companies that offer a licence application handling service in the London area can be found in our Landlord Suppliers Directory here. With demand running at a high level, anyone wanting applications prepared before 1 October is urged to act now to avoid disappointment. The directory also contains fire safety specialists that can install and test fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.

This is the fourth in a series of six weekly updates that are being published to help explain the changes to mandatory HMO licensing that come into force on 1 October 2018.

For all the latest news and events, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.