London Borough of Wandsworth

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Wandsworth 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 London Borough of Wandsworth is in South West London covering an area of 13 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Richmond to the west, Merton to the south, Lambeth to the east and with the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census, about 32% of the housing stock was privately rented which is higher than 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 Wandsworth 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 Wandsworth 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 application fee is paid in two instalments with the cost dependent on the number of bedrooms (based on ‘units of accommodation’ or households).

The fee for a five bedroom property is now £1,410 (was £1,358 in 2019/20), increasing up to £1,666 for a property with 10 or more bedrooms.

Unfortunately, the council has removed the £100 discount that was previously offered to accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees we have listed were correct as of March 2022 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees in full on the council’s website

How do I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately the online application process has disappeared, although you can still download an application form from the council’s website.

Alternatively, you can contact the council and they will send you a HMO licence application pack in the post.

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, HMO standards can be downloaded from the council’s website

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 will still be able to 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 April 2015, Wandsworth Council told us they had licensed 425 HMOs. In January 2016 there were 412, in February 2017 there were 467 and in February 2018 there were 498 licensed HMOs listed in the public register.

In May 2019, the council told us they had granted licences to 550 HMOs. By September 2020 there were 638 licensed HMOs and by August 2021 there were 682 licensed HMOs and listed in the public register.

Every council must have a public register of licensed HMOs and Wandsworth's register can be viewed on the council's website.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In May 2019, the council told us they estimate there are 850 Houses in Multiple Occupation that need to be licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

If you are one of those landlords operating illegally without a licence, we would encourage you to take action today to minimise the compliance risk.

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?

Wandsworth Council told us they took four housing prosecutions over the three-year period from April 2011 to March 2014, but no prosecutions under the Housing Act 2004 from April 2014 to March 2016, so on average less than one housing prosecution a year.

Wandsworth Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over last six years from April 2011 to March 2017.

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 648 accredited landlords in Wandsworth, which was the 5th highest out of all London boroughs.

January 2018: 809 accredited landlords
January 2019: 818 accredited landlords
January 2020: 866 accredited landlords
January 2021: 924 accredited landlords

January 2022 there were 1,109 accredited landlords which is slightly below 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?

Wandsworth Council did consider the idea of introducing a property licensing scheme but decided not to do so, at least in the short term.

On 20 January 2016, a report was presented to the council’s Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (read here) in response to a petition from 165 residents calling for more action on rogue landlords. In response, the report noted that only a small number of complaints were received from tenants compared to the size of the sector and no further measures were proposed in the report.

In a further report dated 6 July 2016 (read here) - see agenda item 7, the committee reached the conclusion there was insufficient evidence to justify an additional or selective licensing scheme. The recommendation was approved by the Council's Executive a few days later. 

Instead, they recommended a range of other measures to tackle rogue landlords and drive up standards in the private rented sector. These included improving the information on the council’s website, organising action days to target the worst properties set up an annual landlord / letting agent forum.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you posted if we hear any further 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 September 2016, we checked with Wandsworth Council and were told there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force.

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.

You can find further information about Article 4 Directions 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 before you start a new HMO development. 

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: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Wandsworth Council
Town Hall
Wandsworth High Street
London SW18 2PU

Tel:      020 8871 6127

Wandsworth News

Wandsworth Events

Wandsworth Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

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

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8871 6127
Weblink: Wandsworth HMO licensing

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