London Borough of Merton

The London Borough of Merton is in South West London covering an area of 15 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Kingston to the west, Sutton to the south, Croydon and Lambeth to the east and Wandsworth to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 25% (1 in 4) of the housing stock was privately rented which is the same as the London average for all boroughs.

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 Merton Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme.

If you rent your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Whilst Merton Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, some HMOs do need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales.

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.   

How much does a licence cost?

Merton Council changes a standard HMO licence fee of £200 per unit of accommodation, followed by £180 for each additional unit over five. So that would be £1,000 for a three storey shared house with five single person lettings

There is an extra £20 per unit charge if the landlord does not voluntarily approach the Council to make a licence application and an extra £30 charge to return an incomplete application.

Renewal fees are charged at half the standard rate.

There is no sign of any fee discount for accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees are correct as of August 2017 and may be subject to change. The fees can be viewed on the Council’s website. When you click on the link, you will need to scroll down the page to the section called ‘Licence fees’. 

Can I apply for a licence online?

Well, when we looked in early 2015, there was a facility to apply online via Merton Council’s website. But since November 2015, that option seems to have disappeared. We’re not sure why.

In the meantime, you can download the application form from the Council’s website – you will need to scroll down to the section ‘Apply for a licence’. You will then need to print it out and complete it by hand, or you can ask the Council to send you an application form in the post.

You will need to submit various supporting documents with your application including gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates and a floor plan of your property, so make sure you have 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, Merton Council has adopted HMO standards which all licensed HMOs must comply with although unfortunately, when we last checked in March 2016, they were not available to download from the Council’s website.

In the meantime, the Council have helpfully provided us with a copy that you can download from the ‘More Information’ box on the right on this page. After all, we like to try and make your life a bit easier!

The HMO standards cover a range of issues such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities, fire precautions, heating, lighting, ventilation and room sizes.

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 March 2015, Merton Council told us they had licensed 120 HMOs.

Every Council must keep a public register of licensed HMOs. Merton Council have told us their register is not available online as it keeps changing.  But they did say that if you contact them direct they would email you an electronic copy. Alternatively, you can book an appointment to view the register at their office.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

We don’t really know. In March 2015, Merton Council told us they have no estimate for the number of licensable HMOs operating without a licence, but they are considering commissioning a study to get a better understanding of the housing stock.

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?

Merton Council told us they had taken no housing prosecutions over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), which puts them at the bottom of the housing enforcement league table when compared to all London Boroughs.

Merton Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last six years (April 2011 to March 2017). This is based on 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 259 accredited landlords in Merton, which is the 2nd lowest 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?

No, they are keeping things simple. In March 2015, Merton Council told us they had no plans to implement additional or selective licensing although this could change in the future. We’ll keep an eye on things and let you know if anything changes.

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 August 2016, we checked with Merton Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and there are no 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: 

Environmental Health Housing Team
Merton Council
Civic Centre
London Road
London SM4 5DX

Email: ehhousing@merton.gov.uk
Tel:     020 8545 3212
Website: www.merton.gov.uk

Merton News

Merton Events

Merton Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in Merton but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8545 3212
Email: ehhousing@merton.gov.uk
Weblink: Merton HMO licensing

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