London Borough of Sutton

The London Borough of Sutton is in South West London covering an area of 17 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Kingston upon Thames to the west, Merton to the north, Croydon to the east and with Surrey to the south west. According to the 2011 Census, about 16% of the housing stock was privately rented which is well below 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 Sutton 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 Sutton 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?

Sutton Council HMO licence fees vary according to the number of lettings.

The standard fee is £185 (was £180 in 2015/2016) per letting, so that would be £925 for a three-storey shared house with five single person lettings. There are no discounts listed for accredited landlords, which we think is a shame.

The fees we’ve listed are correct as of February 2017 but could be subject to change in the future. When we last checked, the fees were not listed on the Council’s website, although you will find them printed on page 8 of the licence application form that you can download from here

Can I apply for a licence online?

No you can’t. It’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download an HMO licence application form from the Council’s website, print it out and complete it by hand.

Alternatively, you can contact the council and ask them to send you a licence application pack in the post.

You will need to supply various supporting documentation such as gas and electrical certificates, and fire alarm and emergency lighting test reports (if applicable), so make sure you have 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. 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, Sutton Council have adopted HMO standards although they are not yet available on the Council’s website. In March 2015, the Council kindly send us 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 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 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, Sutton Council told us they had licensed 28 HMOs. We last checked in February 2017 and there were 30 listed, so not much difference.

Sutton Council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs. You can download a copy from the Council’s website. When you click on the link, scroll down to the last paragraph where you can download the register.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

We don’t really know. Sutton Council have told us they have no information about the number of licensable HMOs in the borough. There’s not much more we can say.

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?

Sutton Council told us they had taken two housing prosecution over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), so they are at the lower end of the housing prosecution league table when compared to all London Boroughs. Neither prosecution was for a HMO licensing offence.

Sutton 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 296 accredited landlords in Sutton, which is the 5th lowest out 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.

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

No, it seems not. There are keeping things simple! In December 2015, Sutton Council told us they were not considering the introduction of a selective or additional licensing scheme.

We will continue to monitor the situation 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.

For smaller HMOs, the rules are a bit more complicated. HMOs occupied by between three and six people fall into planning use class C4 whereas single-family properties fall into planning use class C3.

In December 2015, we checked with Sutton Council and were told they do not have an HMO Article 4 Direction in force and there are no plans to consult on 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).

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. 

How do I find out more?

To find out more, you can contact the Council at: 

Environmental Health Team
Sutton Council
Civic Offices
St Nicholas Way
Sutton
Surrey SM1 1EA

Email: Environmentalhealth@sutton.gov.uk
Tel:       020 8770 5000
Website: www.sutton.gov.uk

Sutton News

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

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

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8770 5000
Email: Environmentalhealth@sutton.gov.uk
Weblink: Sutton HMO licensing

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