Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames is in South West London covering an area of 14 square miles. Situated on the edge of outer London it is bordered by the boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton to the east and Richmond and the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 22% of the housing stock was privately rented which is slightly 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 Kingston Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme.

If you rent out your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Kingston 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 December 2012 and applies borough wide. The scheme lasts for five years and will end on 30 November 2017 unless the Council decide to implement a replacement scheme.
 
To help you decide if you need a licence, we have 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

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 one or two storeys high and occupied by five or more people; or
  • It is three or more storeys high and occupied by three or four people

Fortunately, Kingston Council have excluded section 257 HMOs from the scheme which helps to avoid another layer of complexity.

How much does a licence cost?

Kingston Council’s HMO licensing fees vary according to the size of the building.

In a property one or two storeys high, the fee is £200 (was £135 in 2015/16) per room available for letting. So that would be £1,000 (was £675 in 2015/16) for a five bed shared house.

In a property three or more storeys high, the fee is £240 (was £200 in 2015/16) per room available for letting. So that would be £1,200 (was £1,000 in 2015/16) for a five bed shared house.

There is a discount of £100 if the licence holder or designated manager is a member of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme or another approved scheme.

There is an extra £300 fee if the council find you are operating a licensable but unlicensed property – they may also prosecute you, so it pays to act quickly!

The fees are correct as of December 2016 but may be subject to change in the future. You can find the fees listed on the Council’s website

Can I apply for a licence online?

Yes you can apply and pay online from Kingston Council’s website.

In addition to completing the application form, they ask you to provide various supporting information such as electrical and gas safety certificates, a floor plan, portable appliance testing certificate and fire alarm / emergency lighting test certificates. So make sure you have all your paperwork ready. 

Alternatively, you can contact Kingston Council and ask them to send you an application pack in the post.

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, in November 2015 Kingston Council introduced updated HMO Standards that you can download from the Council’s website. Alternatively you can download a copy from the ‘More Information’ box on the right of this page. We like to try and make your life a little easier!

The HMO 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 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?

As of March 2016, Kingston Council had licensed 319 HMOs, an increase of 67 over the last twelve months.

In October 2016, the Council announced that 170 properties were licensed under the mandatory HMO scheme and a further 165 properties under the additional licensing scheme, a further increase to 335 properties.

The Council keeps a public register of all licensed properties which is regulatory updated and can be viewed on their website.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, it seems like there may be quite a few. In March 2015, Kingston Council told us they had no estimate for the number of properties that need licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. But when the additional licensing scheme was implemented in 2012, they thought the scheme would cover 500 to 1,000 properties.

So this does suggest they could still be hundreds of unlicensed HMOs still out there. If you are the landlord of a licensable but unlicensed property in Kingston, 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 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 £20,00 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?

Kingston Council told us they have taken one housing prosecution over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), so that puts them at the lower end of the prosecution league table when compared to other London boroughs. The prosecution was not for a licensing offence.

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

With potentially so many unlicensed properties still out there, we expect Kingston will be stepping up their housing enforcement action over the next 12 - 18 months, so beware!

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 300 accredited landlords in Kingston upon Thames, which is in the bottom quartile when compared to 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.

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

In March 2015 Kingston Council told us they had no current plans to consider new selective or additional licensing schemes.

However, in December 2016 we discovered they had just completed a public consultation on plans to review their additional licensing scheme which expires in November 2016. Unfortunately, no one from the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames told us they were carrying out the consultation and so we were unable to tell anyone!

We understand the consultation took place from 7 October to 16 December 2016.

It looks like there will be further announcements soon so please sign up to our free newsletter for all the latest 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 July 2016, we checked with Kingston Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and no immediate plans to introduce one.

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: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Kingston Council
Guildhall 2
High Street
Kingston upon Thames
KT1 1EU

Email: privatesectorhousing@kingston.gov.uk
Tel:      020 8547 5003
Website: www.kingston.gov.uk

Kingston upon Thames News

Kingston upon Thames Events

Kingston upon Thames Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No selective licensing in Kingston upon Thames although mandatory HMO and additional licensing applies borough wide.

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8547 5003
Email: privatesectorhousing@kingston.gov.uk
Weblink: Kingston HMO licensing

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