London Borough of Hounslow

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Hounslow 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 Hounslow is in west London covering an area of 22 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Hillingdon and Ealing to the north, Hammersmith & Fulham to the east, Harrow and Richmond to the south. According to the 2011 Census about 23% of the housing stock was privately rented which is marginally lower 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 Hounslow Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme, although if you rent out a self-contained flat within a converted building, the whole building may need to be licensed under the additional licensing scheme, as explained below. 

If you rent out your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Hounslow Council operate both an additional licensing scheme and the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales.

The additional licensing scheme came into force on 1 June 2014 and applies borough wide. The scheme lasts for five years and will end on 31 May 2019 unless the Council decides to implement a replacement scheme.
 
To help you decide if you need a licence, we’ve outlined the two HMO licensing schemes below:

1. Mandatory HMO licensing

You will need an 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 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 licensing

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 but it meets the following criteria:

  • It is two or more storeys high; and
  • It is occupied by four or more people in two or more households.

The Council have included ‘section 257 HMOs’ within the 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.

In deciding whether a section 257 HMO needs to be licensed, the Council have restricted the licensing scheme to those properties where self-contained flats are all in the same ownership. This is a complex area of law and you may need further advice.

How much does a licence cost?

Hounslow Council charge a standard HMO licensing fee of £1,123 (£1,069.36 in 2015/16 & £1,046.34 in 2014/15) regardless of the size of the property. This seems to apply to both the mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes as there are no separate fees listed on the Council's website.

There is a reduced fee of £1,044 (£994.36 in 2016/17 & £883.66 in 2015/16) if you are a member of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, a recognised landlord association or a relevant professional body. It is good to see accredited landlords being charged a lower licence fee although the discount has been reduced in the last year.

The fees are correct as of October 2017, but could be subject to change in the future.

How do I apply for a licence?

You can download an application form from the  council’s website. Alternatively, you could contact Hounslow Council and ask them to send you an HMO licensing application pack in the post. 

You will need to provide various supporting documents such as a gas safety certificate, electrical certificate, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates (if any) and a floor plan of the property, so make sure you’ve got all your paperwork ready. 

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, 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.  

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Hounslow Council have published HMO standards that 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.

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?

In February 2015, Hounslow Council told us they had licensed 326 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 261 under the additional licensing scheme.

By December 2016, the council told us the number of licensed properties under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme had reduced to 306, while the number of properties licensed under the additional licensing scheme had increased to 362. In total, there were 668 licensed properties.

Hounslow Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties that is regularly updated. It has recently been published online and can be viewed on the council’s website

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Well, it seems like there may be quite a few. In February 2015, Hounslow Council told us that they think 500 to 700 properties need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme with another 2,000 properties covered by their additional licensing scheme. That suggests there could be well over 1,000 unlicensed properties still out there.

If you are the landlord of a licensable but unlicensed property in Hounslow, you need to 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! (find out more).

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Hounslow Council told us they took seven housing prosecutions in the three year period from April 2011 to March 2014. A further six prosecutions took place in 2014/15 and five prosecutions in 2015/16, so they are clearly stepping up their enforcement activity.

Hounslow Council has not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), according to data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

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 398 accredited landlords in Hounslow, which is below average when compared with 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?

Possibly. In February 2015, Hounslow Council told us there has been some discussion amongst councillors and senior managers about wider licensing of landlords. Whilst there are no specific proposals at the moment, they said they were thinking about commissioning a review of the evidence base for another licensing scheme.

When we checked again in December 2016, the council told us there had been no further developments in the last 12 months regarding the expansion of licensing in the borough.

For all the latest news direct to your inbox, 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 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 December 2016, Hounslow Council told us they had made a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction that applies to the Hanworth Ward only. The effect will be to remove permitted development rights in that area.

When the Direction comes into force, planning permission will be required to change any property from a single-family home (C3) to an HMO with up to six occupants (class C4). So even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

When does the HMO Article 4 Direction come into force?

Hounslow Council made the non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction on 2 November 2016. According to the Council report, they propose to consult on the Article 4 Direction for a minimum of 21 days and will display at least two notices in the area and a notice in the local paper. We do not know when the consultation is taking place or whether it has already finished. You may need to contact the council direct as we’ve not seen any publicity.  

The council have said that the Direction will come into force on or around 5 November 2017. The changes are not retrospective and so until that date, properties can still be converted under permitted development rules. More information is available 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, 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!

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: 

HMO Licensing Team
Hounslow Council
Civic Centre
Lampton Road
Hounslow
TW3 4DN

Email: privatesectorhousing@hounslow.gov.uk
Tel:    020 8583 3871
Website: www.hounslow.gov.uk

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No selective licensing in Hounslow although mandatory HMO and additional licensing applies borough wide.

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