London Borough of Waltham Forest

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Waltham Forest 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 Waltham Forest is in East London covering an area of 15 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Enfield and Haringey to the west, Hackney and Newham to the south, Redbridge to the east and with Essex to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 26% of the housing stock was privately rented which is marginally above the London average of 25% (1 in 4).

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

Yes, most private rented properties in Waltham Forest will need to be licensed.

You will need a licence if you rent your property to a single family as Waltham Forest Council have implemented a selective licensing scheme that came into force on 1 April 2015 and last for five years until 31 March 2020. There are very few exemptions.

If you rent your property as a House in Multiple Occupation, the answer is more complicated. Whilst Waltham Forest Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, some HMOs will need a licence under the selective licensing scheme and some are covered under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies across England. 

If you think you may need a licence, you now need to decide which one. We will try to help you choose the right licence for your property.

1. Mandatory HMO licence

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. Selective Licensing

You will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single person, couple or single household anywhere in the borough.

Selective licences are also needed for most HMOs and this is where is gets more complicated. Waltham Forest says that selective licensing applies to all HMOs. They may be right and the easiest thing is to apply for a licence to make sure you are covered. But there is also another legal interpretation that suggests some HMOs may be exempt. It’s a bit longwinded so unless you are really interested you may want to skip this part.

Under section 79(2)(b) of the Housing Act 2004, selective licensing only applies to a property if the whole of it is occupied either:

(i) under a single tenancy or licence; or
(ii) under two or more tenancies or licences in respect of different dwellings contained within it.

So under section 79(2)(b)(i), if your property is let on one tenancy to people not all related to each other (e.g. a house share), it is a House in Multiple Occupation that will need to be licensed under the selective licensing scheme.

The meaning of section 79(2)(b)(ii) is more difficult to follow. If your property is let on two or more tenancies or licences, it will need a selective licence if each one relates to a different dwelling contained within it. But what is the definition of a dwelling? Well, some view a dwelling as a self-contained unit of accommodation whereas Waltham Forest thinks it includes all units of accommodation including those with shared facilities. The simplest option is to apply for a selective licence for all HMOs that fall outside the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, or seek independent legal advice on your options.

Ultimately, only the Courts can interpret the law and unless this issue is ever tested in court, we may never know for sure.

How much does a licence cost?

At Waltham Forest, it depends on the type of licence you are applying for.

For a mandatory HMO licence, the standard fee is £1,100 (was £1,050 in 2018/19, £1,000 in 2017/18, £930 in 2016/17) for a three storey HMO with up to six lettings. If there are more lettings, there is an extra £125 (was £105 in 2018/19, £100 in 2017/18, £88 in 2016/17) per letting after that.

For a selective licence, there is a standard fee of £650 (was £500 in 2015/16).

The fees are correct as of May 2019 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the mandatory HMO licensing fees on the council’s website here and the selective licensing fees here.

How do I apply for a licence?

Waltham Forest Council have an online application process for their selective licensing scheme but not for the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. We have outlined the application process below.

1. Mandatory HMO licensing

You can download a mandatory HMO licence application form via the council’s website. Once you click on this link, select the option ‘How to apply for a licence’. 

You can then print out the form, complete it and send it back in the post, or you can ask the council to send you an application pack in the post.

When submitting your application, you are asked to provide various supporting documents including gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm certificate, a floor plan of the property, planning and building regulation approval documents for any alterations and even copies of the tenancy agreements - not many councils seem to ask for them. That’s a lot of paperwork so make sure you have it all ready!

2. Selective Licensing

There is a different process for selective licensing applications and you can only apply online. Waltham Forest Council has told us they will not accept any paper applications. For landlords without internet access, they have said you can apply online at one of the local libraries, assuming you live nearby.

The application process is explained in detail on the council’s website. You will need to set up a ‘My Services’ account in order to apply. There is a lot of information to study and you will need to scan in any supporting documents to accompany your application. So make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to complete the application. 

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, the Waltham Forest HMO standards were updated in 2015 and you can view a copy on the council’s website. Once you click on the link, scroll down to the ‘Further information’ section.

You can also download a copy from the ‘More information’ box on the right of this page.

The Waltham Forest HMO standards relate to properties licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 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 March 2015, Waltham Forest Council had licensed 166 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. When we checked again in January 2016, the public register listed 168, in May 2017 the figure had dropped slightly to 159 but by January 2019 it had increased to 239.

The selective licensing scheme came into force on 1 April 2015. By January 2016, the council reported that they had approved 15,000 licences. By May 2016, 19,000 licence applications had been received and by July 2017, they had received over 23,000 applications with over 21,000 licences approved. By January 2019, 24,515 selective licences had been approved.

The council keeps a public register of all licensed properties that can be viewed on the council's website. The selective licensing register can be viewed here. Once you click on the link, scroll down to ‘View publicly licensed properties in the borough’. 

The mandatory HMO licensing register can be viewed here. Once you click on the link, scroll down to ‘See the register of licensed mandatory HMOs’.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, it seems there are there are quite a few. In March 2015, Waltham Forest Council told us they think there are about 440 properties covered by the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 26,000 properties covered by selective licensing.

As of January 2019, there could still be 1,000 or more private rented properties that need to be licenced but where no application has yet been submitted. We will be following what happens and will keep you posted.

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?

Waltham Forest Council took 14 housing prosecutions over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016, an average three housing prosecutions a year. In 2016/17, there was a dramatic increase in enforcement action with 58 successful housing prosecutions. 

The council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016.

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 615 accredited landlords in Waltham Forest, which was in the top third of all London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 757 and by January 2019 that figure had increased to 780, which is still above 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, with Waltham Forest’s selective licensing scheme due to expire on 31 March 2020, they are exploring what happens after that. The council want to continue to license most privately rented properties to effectively regulate their condition, management and occupation and to help tackle anti-social behaviour.

The proposals include a borough wide additional licensing scheme for all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), plus a selective licensing scheme covering all other private rented properties in the majority of the borough (except Hatch Lane and Endlebury where the proportion of private sector housing is below the national average and therefore they do not meet the criteria for inclusion).

The council carried out a public consultation on the licensing proposals for 12 weeks from Monday 4 February to Monday 29 April 2019. You can find out more information by visiting the council's website.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will let you know what happens next.

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 smaller HMOs, the rules are more complicated. HMOs occupied by up to six people fall into planning use class C4 whereas single-family properties fall into planning use class C3.

On 16 September 2013, Waltham Forest Council made an Article 4 Direction that removes the permitted development rights to change a property from a single-family house (use class C3) to an HMO occupied by up to six people (use class C4) without planning permission.

The Article 4 Direction applies borough-wide and came into force on 16 September 2014. So from that date, even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

You can download a copy of the Article 4 Direction confirmation notice from the ‘More Information’ box on the right of this page.

We have also published some more general advice about HMO Article 4 Directions, available here

To find out more information from Waltham Forest Council, you can visit the planning page on the council’s website.

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. 

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: 

Housing Standards Team
Waltham Forest Council
Sycamore House
Town Hall Complex
Forest Road
Walthamstow
E17 4JF

Email: propertylicensing@walthamforest.gov.uk
Tel:      020 8496 4949
Website: www.walthamforest.gov.uk

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

There is no additional licensing scheme but selective and mandatory HMO licensing schemes both apply borough wide.

An additional and selective licensing consultation took place from 4 February to 29 April 2019.

More Information

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