London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames is in South West London covering an area of 22 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Wandsworth to the east, Kingston to the south, Hounslow to the north and with Surrey to the west. 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 Richmond 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 Richmond 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);
  • 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.   

How much does a licence cost?

Richmond Council charges a standard HMO licence fee of £280 per unit of accommodation (£263 in 2015/16, £257 in 2014/15) – i.e. a bedsit or a separate let in a shared house. So, that would be £1,400 for a three-storey shared house with five single person lettings. 

The table on the website says they charge an extra 20% if you submit an incomplete application or missing / invalid payment, and an extra 40% if you submit an incomplete application and missing / invalid payment. That could increase the cost up to £2,000 for a property with five lettings! 

And for owners who deliberately fail to apply for a licence and are being prosecuted, the fee can spiral up to £560 per unit of accommodation (£526 in 2015/16, £514 in 2014/15), or £2,800 for a property with five lettings!! 

There aren’t any discounts listed for accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees are correct as of March 2017 and may be subject to change. The fees can be viewed in full on the Council’s website. Once you click on the link, you will need to scroll down the page to the section called ‘HMO licence costs’.

Can I apply for a licence online?

Yes you can apply and pay online via the Richmond Council’s website. Once you click on the link, scroll down the page to the ‘How to apply’ section.

Alternatively, you can download an application form, print it out and complete it by hand, but it’s 24 pages long so you may want to ask the Council to send you a form in the post instead.

The application form lists various supporting documents you need to provide including gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates and a floor plan. They even also for a copy of your buildings insurance certificate although we are unsure why that is needed.

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, Richmond Council has adopted HMO standards which all licensed HMOs must comply with. The standards can be downloaded from the Council’s website.

There is one guide on general standards in HMOs and a separate guide on fire precautions in HMOs.

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 March 2015, Richmond Council told us they had licensed 48 Houses in Multiple Occupation. When we checked again in August 2016, there were 49 licensed HMOs, an increase of one!

Every Council must have a public register of licensed HMOs. Richmond Council have recently made their public register available online and it can be viewed on the Council’s website. When you link on the link, you will need to scroll down to the section called ‘HMO licences’.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In March 2015, Richmond Council told us they estimate there could be 60 to 70 Houses in Multiple Occupation that require a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So with 49 HMOs already licensed, there could be about 20 licensable but unlicensed HMOs that the Council still need to find. Overall, it seems the number of HMOs operating without a licence is fairly low.

If you are the landlord of one of those unlicensed HMOs, 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 £20,000 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?

Richmond Council told us they have not taken any housing prosecutions over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), so that puts them at the bottom of the housing prosecution league table when compared to all London Boroughs.

Richmond Council have not yet obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016). This is based on data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

The council have told us that landlords operating in the borough are generally compliant and that those who are not usually respond to warnings and get any necessary works done.

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 396 accredited landlords in Richmond upon Thames, which is below average when compared to all the 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?

No, it seems not. They are keeping things simple. In March 2015, Richmond Council told us they had no plans to implement additional or selective licensing although things may change again in the future.

To make your life a bit easier, we will keep an eye on things and will 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 March 2017, we checked with Richmond Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and they have no plans to introduce one within the next 12 months.

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: 

The Residential Team
Richmond upon Thames Council
Civic Centre
44 York Street
Twickenham TW1 3BZ

Email: residentialeh@richmond.gov.uk 
Tel:      020 8487 5123
Website: www.richmond.gov.uk

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

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

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8487 5123
Email: residentialeh@richmond.gov.uk
Weblink: Richmond HMO licensing

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