London Borough of Brent

The London Borough of Brent is in North London covering an area of 16 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Ealing to the west, Barnet and Camden to the east, Harow to the north and with Hammersmith & Fullham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster to the south. According to the 2011 Census about 30% (1 in 3) 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?

There is a high chance you will need a licence to rent out your property in Brent although you need to study the arrangements carefully as one of the licensing schemes only applies to part of the borough. We will try to explain.

On 1 January 2015, Brent Council implemented a borough wide additional licensing scheme together with a selective licensing scheme that only covers part of the borough. Both schemes operate for five years until 31 December 2019.

There is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies across England and Wales. So in total, there are three separate licensing schemes.

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:

  • Is three or more storeys high (a storey includes a basement, loft conversion and any storey comprising business premises); and
  • Contains five or more people in two or more households; and
  • Contains shared facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.  

Following a recent government announcement, the mandatory HMO licensing criteria look set to change in 2017, bringing thousands more properties within the scope of licensing. It is important to keep up to date as these changes could impact on you. You can sign up to our free newsletter for all the latest news.   

2. Additional licence

You will need an additional licence if your property is let as a House in Multiple Occupation that does not fall within the remit of the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So licensing applies to all HMOs in Brent.

The House in Multiple Occupation definition is not straightforward and you will need to study it carefully or seek advice. For example, Brent Council have included ‘section 257 HMOs’ within the additional licensing scheme. These are properties that:

  • have been converted into self-contained flats; and
  • the conversion did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply; and
  • less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied.

So a building containing both owner-occupied and rented flats may need one licence for the whole building. This is a complex area of law and you may need further advice.

3. 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 and is located in the Council wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central or Willesden Green. If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing scheme does not apply.

This adds another layer of complexity as most landlords won’t be familiar with the ward boundaries and neither will tenants or agents. You can see a map highlighting the three wards in the selective licensing scheme designation on the Council's website

If you think your property might be in one of these three wards, you can also use the Council’s My Location service to check. 

In summary, if you rent out a House in Multiple Occupation in Brent, it will need to be licensed. If you rent out a property to a single family, it will need to be licensed if it is in the Council wards of Harlesden, Wembley Central and Willesden Green.

How much does a licence cost?

In Brent, it depends on the type of licence you are applying for.

For a mandatory HMO licence, Brent Council charge a standard fee of £540 for a three storey shared house with five single person lettings. If there are more lettings, there is an extra £25 fee for each additional habitable room. There is also an extra fee of £50 if you need help completing the forms.

For an additional licence, Brent Council charge a standard fee of £540. For a selective licence there is a standard fee of £340 per property for a five-year licence. If the landlord fails to submit an application and the Council find the property they will charge an extra £300. There is a £40 discount for accredited landlords. 

The fees we have listed were correct as of July 2017 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees in full on the Council’s website

Can I apply for a licence online?

Yes, Brent Council is one of the few boroughs offering a fully integrated online application and payment system for mandatory HMO, additional and selective licensing! You can apply by visiting the Council's website

If you need assistance with a mandatory HMO or additional 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, arrange a measured floorplan and provide expert advice on compliance. To find out more, please drop us a line and we will send you further details, or you can study the information published here

For selective licence applications, you may wish to contact our colleagues at McDowalls Surveyors Limited who specialise in that type of licensing. You can visit their website here

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, the Brent 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 and ventilation. 

We couldn’t find any minimum room sizes published on Brent Council’s website so we checked this with them. In February 2015, they told us that the following room sizes apply in shared houses:

(i) Any room less than 6.5m² is not suitable for occupation.

(ii) One Person Units of Accommodation:
      6.5 m² where provided with a separate shared kitchen
      10.2 m² where the room contains kitchen facilities

(iii) Two person units of accommodation:
       10.2 m² where provided with a separate shared kitchen
       13.9 m² where the room contains kitchen facilities

The standard is to be applied irrespective of the age of the occupants

These standards only apply to HMOs licensed under the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes. They don’t apply to the selective licensing scheme.

It is important for us to point out that the government are looking to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for HMOs – 6.52m2 for one person and 10.23m2 for two people. The local council will still be able to ask for larger minimum sizes. The standards will apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme. If you are concerned about how this will impact on your properties, please contact us for advice

How many properties has the Council licensed?

As of February 2016, Brent Council told us they had licensed 4,765 properties:

  • 340 mandatory HMO licences (214 in Jan 2015);
  • 1,130 additional licences (50 in Jan 2015); and
  • 3,295 selective licences (239 in Jan 2015).

A further 1,500 licence applications had been received and were being processed by the Council. So they won’t run out of work anytime soon!

Brent Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which is available on the Council’s website. Once you click on the link, scroll to the ‘Property Licensing Register’ section at the bottom of the page.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, it would seem so. In January 2015, Brent Council told us they thought there were about 14,400 licensable HMOs plus a further 3,000 rented properties covered by the selective licensing scheme.

In September 2016, the council said that just over 5,500 applications had been approved and another 1,600 were currently being processed. They acknowledged that they are still searching for thousands of HMOs that will need licensing under the council’s additional licensing scheme. They are stepping up their efforts to raise awareness of this scheme and increasing their enforcement activity.

Brent Council were recently awarded an extra £295,000 from the government to tackle rogue landlords and one of their enforcement operations was featured on BBC breakfast on 22 January 2016; council enforcement officers were accompanied by the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis.

If you are a landlord or letting agent operating in Brent, it’s vital you make sure your properties are licensed before the council comes knocking on your door.

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.

From April 2017 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! (find out more)

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Whilst Brent Council told us they did not take any housing prosecutions over three years between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2014, things have certainly changed since then.

Brent Council took seven housing prosecutions in 2014/15, ten housing prosecutions in 2015/16 and forty housing prosecutions in 2016/17, representing a huge increase compared to the previous three years.   

The Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the four year period from April 2011 to March 2015. One Rent Repayment Order was obtained in 2015/16 – an unlicensed HMO landlord was ordered to repay over £7,000 of housing benefit to the council.

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 685 accredited landlords in Brent, which is the 4th highest out of all London boroughs.

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?

Brent Council have already introduced borough wide additional licensing and a partial selective licensing scheme. They are now looking to extend the selective licensing scheme borough wide.

In September 2016 Brent Council started to consult on the introduction of a second selective licensing scheme. They are looking to introduce selective licensing to the whole borough. The consultation was open until 16 December 2016 and the council received over 1,200 responses. You can read the consultation report by visiting the council’s website.

On 19 June 2017, a report was presented to the Council’s Cabinet meeting recommending the implementation of six new selective licensing schemes covering a further 18 council wards (read here). The proposal will now be presented to the Secretary of State who must decide whether to approve the schemes.

To keep up to date with all the latest changes, you can sign up to our free newsletter.

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 February 2016, we checked with Brent Council and were told they do not have an 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.

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, need a legionella or fire risk assessment, or are seeking a Gas Safe registered contractor to service the boiler, we’ve got it covered – and far more besides!

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?

To find out more, you can contact the Council at: 

Property Licensing Team
Brent Council
Brent Civic Centre
Engineers Way
Wembley
HA9 0FJ

Email: prslicensing@brent.gov.uk
Tel:     020 8937 2384
Website: www.brent.gov.uk

Brent News

Brent Events

Brent Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO & additional licensing schemes apply borough wide, while selective licensing applies to part of the borough.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8937 2384
Email: prslicensing@brent.gov.uk
Weblink: Brent property licensing

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