London Borough of Islington

The London Borough of Islington is in North London covering an area of 6 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Camden to the west, Haringey to the north, Hackney to the east and the City of London to the south. According to the 2011 Census, about 27% of the housing stock was privately rented which is slightly 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 Islington Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme. However, if you rent out a flat in a converted building, you should check the additional licensing scheme below as some buildings containing flats do need to be licensed.

If you rent out your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) the answer is a bit more complicated. Islington Council have an additional licensing scheme that started on 1 September 2015, plus the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales. 

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);
  • 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 licensing 

The additional licensing scheme started on 1 September 2015 and runs for five years until 31 August 2020, unless the Council chose to implement a replacement scheme.

It applies to all HMOs in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road i.e. houses or flats occupied by three or more people who are not all members of the same household or family.

The Council have also included ‘section 257 HMOs’ in the scheme. These are properties that:

  • have been converted into self-contained flats;
  • 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.

This is a quite a complex area of law and you may need further advice on whether your property is a 'section 257 HMO'. You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the ‘More Information’ box of the right hand side of this page. 

They have said that late or incomplete applications that indicate poor property management practices will, at best, only secure a one-year licence and could result in prosecution.  It is important that you act now if this scheme applies to you. For expert advice and assistance, including help with applying for a licence, please get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.

How much does a licence cost?

It will depend on the type of licence you are applying for:

Mandatory HMO Licensing

Islington Council charges a standard HMO licence fee of £270 per letting (£260 in 2015/16), so that would be £1,350 for a three storey shared house with five single person lettings. The fee is reduced to £230 per letting if the licence-holder or manager is accredited under a London Rental Standard approved scheme, which could save you £200 on a 5 bed-house. 

Additional Licensing

Islington Council say they have set the fees at a higher level than some other councils as they are serious about inspecting the properties and significantly improving the management standards.

The fee for a 5-year licence is £270 per letting (i.e. bedsit, bedroom or studio flat), so that would be £1,350 for a 5-bedroom HMO. The fee is reduced to £230 per letting if the licence-holder or manager is accredited under a London Rental Standard approved scheme, which could save you £200 on a 5 bed-house. 

The fee for a ‘section 257 HMO’ is £660 per building. The fee is reduced to £560 per building for those accredited under the London Rental Standard, which could save you £100.

The fees we have quoted are correct as of December 2016, 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, in February 2016, Islington Council told us they had implemented a new simplified process to apply for both mandatory HMO and additional licensing. We like that!

First of all, you need to visit a licence checker service on the council’s website to find out whether your property needs a licence. If it does, you will then be directed to a new online application form and you can also pay the application fee online. 

You can no longer download a paper application form from the Council’s website, so if for any reason you want to submit a paper application, you will need to contact the council direct to see if there is still one available.

When applying for a licence, you will need to provide various supporting documents such as a gas and electrical safety certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates (if any) and a floor plan of the property. 

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. The service, developed in partnership with McDowalls Surveyors Ltd, means you and your property will be in very safe hands, and all for a fixed fee. 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, Islington 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.

Whilst these are the Council’s guidelines for all licensed HMOs, the Council also expect these standards to be complied with in all HMOs in order to promote good quality accommodation and fairer market conditions. The Council have told us they will look to use other legal provisions to bring non-licensable HMOs up to this same standard, wherever possible.

It is important for us to point out that the government are looking to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for HMOs in 2017 – 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, Islington Council had licensed 312 HMOs under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme, although a year later, that figure has risen to 360, an increase of 48.

In February 2016, Islington Council told us they were currently processing about 150 applications under the additional licensing scheme. 

The Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which is regularly updated and can be viewed on the Council’s website. It’s nice and simple to use. We like that!

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Islington Council told us that based on their 2008 housing stock survey, they estimated there could be about 758 properties that need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So if these figures are reasonably accurate, there might still be several hundred unlicensed HMOs in the borough.

Islington Council estimate that another 700 HMOs may require a licence on Caledonian Road and Holloway Road, under the new additional licensing scheme.

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 in the Magistrates Court. If found guilty, you would get a criminal record and could be fined by the Court and ordered to pay court costs and victim surcharge. The maximum fine was £20,000 but in March 2015 the law changed and you can now be fined an unlimited amount, 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?

Islington Council told us they took nine separate housing prosecutions over the three years from April 2011 to March 2014, plus a further six prosecutions in 2014/15 and six prosecutions in 2015/16. They do seem to be stepping up their enforcement activity.

Islington Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016).

How many accredited landlords are there?

Under the London Rental Standard, there are three approved 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 635 accredited landlords in Islington, which places them in the top quartile of all London boroughs.

If you have not yet done so, please visit our London Rental Standard page and decide which scheme you want to join. Accredited landlords are entitled to various benefits, including discounted licensing fees in some boroughs, including Islington!

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

On 12 March 2015, Islington Council Executive approved an additional licensing scheme that started on 1 September 2015. The scheme applies to all HMOs in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road – an estimated 700 properties. For more background information, you can read the Executive Report that implemented the new scheme.

Islington Council had consulted on the proposed additional licensing scheme from 27 October 2014 to 9 January 2015. Before carrying out the consultation, Council Officers had surveyed over 600 properties on these two streets including over 200 HMOs. Almost 70% of HMOs inspected were found to have poor management and badly maintained communal areas.

In March 2015, Islington Council told us they had no current plans to implement a selective licensing scheme.

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 February 2016, we checked with Islington Council and found that 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.

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: 

Residential Environmental Health Team
Islington Council
222 Upper Street
N1 1XR

Tel:     020 7527 3205

Islington News

Islington Events

Islington Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide and an additional licensing scheme applies to part of the borough. There is no selective licensing scheme.

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7527 3205
Weblink: Islington property licensing

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