London Borough of Hackney

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Hackney 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 Hackney is in North London covering an area of 7 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Islington to the west, the City of London and Tower Hamlets to the south, Newham and Waltham Forest to the east and Haringey to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 29% 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 Hackney although you need to study the arrangements carefully as some of the licensing schemes only apply to part of the borough. We will try to explain.

Later in 2018, Hackney Council are planning to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme together with a selective licensing scheme.

There is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies across England and Wales. So in total, there will soon be 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 will change on 1 October 2018, bringing thousands more properties within the scope of licensing. The restriction to properties that are three or more storeys in height is being removed.

As such, if your property is occupied by five or more people who are not all related and share facilities, it is highly likely you will need to apply for a licence. It is also important that you submit your application before 1 October 2018 to avoid the risk of enforcement action. You can sign up to our free newsletter for all the latest news.

2. Additional licence

The council have approved plans for an additional licensing scheme that is due to be implemented later in the year – we don’t yet know the exact date. You will soon 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. Licensing will apply to almost all HMOs in Hackney.

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

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

In Hackney, the council will only license section 257 HMOs if all the flats within it are privately rented. This is a complex area of law and you may need further advice.

3. Selective Licence

The council have approved plans for a selective licensing scheme that is due to be implemented later in the year – we don’t yet know the exact date. 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 Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington.

If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing scheme does not apply.

In summary, if you rent out a House in Multiple Occupation in Hackney, 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 Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington.

As soon as the start date for these schemes is confirmed, we will update this web-page and also share the information in our free newsletter

How much does a licence cost?

Hackney Council licence fees vary according to the type of licence application.

Mandatory HMO licensing

The standard fee is currently £150 per household (was £146 in 2014/15), so that would be £750 for a three storey shared house with five single person lettings. The fee drops to £125 per household for accredited landlords.

If you do not come forward to apply for a licence and the council discover your property, the council will charge an additional fee of £200 for the property.

Additional licensing

The council have indicated they will charge a flat rate fee of £950 per property, with no mention of any early bird discount for when the scheme starts. There will be a £50 discount for accredited landlords.

Selective licensing

The council have indicated they will charge a flat rate fee of £500 per property, with no mention of any early bird discount for when the scheme starts. There will be a £50 discount for accredited landlords.

The fees we have listed are correct as of April 2018 and could be subject to change in the future. The fees can be viewed on the council’s website

How do I apply for a licence?

Unfortunately, there is no online application system – it’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download the application form, complete it by hand and post it back to the council. The form and accompanying guidance notes can be downloaded from the council’s website

The council have not yet confirmed if there will be a new online application scheme ready for when the additional and selective licensing schemes start.

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. To find out more, please drop us a line and we will send you further details, or you can study the information published here.  

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Hackney Council’s 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.

The government have announced they intend to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for licensed HMOs on 1 October 2018 – 6.51m2 for one person and 10.22m2 for two people. The 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?

In March 2015, Hackney Council told us they had licensed 179 HMOs. We checked again in February 2016 and found they had licensed 189 properties and the same figure was shown in December 2016. In March 2018, the council reported there were 193 licensed HMOs. 

Hackney Council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that can be viewed on the council’s website. When you click on the link, you need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to the ‘Public register of HMO licences’ section.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Possibly. In March 2015, Hackney Council told us there could be about 450 licensable HMOs in the borough according to their house condition survey from 2009. This suggests there could be 200 or more licensable HMOs still operating without a licence.

The council are expecting to license a further 4,000 HMOs under the additional licensing scheme and 1,500 properties under the selective licensing scheme.

If you are the landlord of a licensable but unlicensed property, you should act now to avoid the consequences.

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 get your property licensed! (find out more

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Hackney Council told us they took six housing prosecutions over the three years from April 2011 to March 2014, so on average two housing prosecutions a year.

Hackney Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016 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 592 accredited landlords in Hackney. 

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 834, which is 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, Hackney Council carried out a preliminary consultation about the private rented sector from 26 January to 3 March 2015. The council said they were considering whether to introduce an additional or selective licensing scheme although there weren’t any firm proposals at that stage.

On 24 March 2015 there was a report that provides the Executive’s response to the Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission review. The report confirmed that the council were still exploring the possibility of a new licensing scheme, although it acknowledged there would need to be a full public consultation prior to any decision being made.

In August 2015, Hackney Council published the results from their preliminary consultation exercise. The report suggested that the council explores the scope for an additional HMO licensing scheme and also possibly a HMO Article 4 Direction to restrict new HMOs. The study found no strong link between the private rented sector and problems of anti-social behaviour.

From 18 September to 3 December 2017, the council consulted on plans for an additional licensing scheme for all HMOs and a selective licensing scheme for all privately rented properties, in Brownswood, Cazenove and Stoke Newington wards. You can read more information on the council’s website.

On 19 March 2018, the council’s Cabinet meeting (view here) approved plans for additional and selective licensing schemes that are expected to come into force later in the year.

There is clearly a lot happening at Hackney so we will monitor the situation and keep you posted. For all the latest news, 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 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 April 2018, we checked the Hackney Council website and found that there is no mention of an HMO Article 4 Direction.

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. To find out more information about Article 4 Directions, you can visit the council’s website.

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
Hackney Council
2 Hillman Street
London
E8 1FB

Email: privatesectorhousing@hackney.gov.uk
Tel:     020 8356 4866
Website: www.hackney.gov.uk

Hackney News

Hackney Events

Hackney Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide. Additional and selective licensing schemes are starting soon.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8356 4866
Email: privatesectorhousing@hackney.gov.uk
Weblink: Hackney HMO licensing

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