London Borough of Wandsworth

The London Borough of Wandsworth is in South West London covering an area of 13 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Richmond to the west, Merton to the south, Lambeth to the east and with the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census, about 32% of the housing stock was privately rented which is 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 Wandsworth 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 Wandsworth 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 need an HMO licence if your property:

  • Is three of more storeys high (a storey includes 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 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?

Licence application fees in Wandsworth vary according to the number of storeys.

The standard fee for a two-storey maisonette above a commercial unit is £1,200 (was £1,120 in 2016), a 3-storey property is £1,470 (was £1,370 in 2016), through to a five-storey property which is £2,000 (was £1,870 in 2016).

The Council offers a £100 discount if you are an accredited landlord through the London Rental Standard which we think is a good idea.

The council previously offered a £300 discount if you approach them in the first instance to apply for a licence and provide all the necessary paperwork – but there was no mention of that when we last checked.

The fees we have listed were correct as of February 2017 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 you can. Wandsworth Council has an online HMO licensing application process that you can access from the Council’s website.

Alternatively, you can contact the Council and they will send you a HMO licence application pack in the post.

You will need to submit various supporting documents such as a floor plan of your property, gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting certificates and portable electrical appliance test report. So make sure you’ve 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. 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, Wandsworth Council's HMO standards were recently updated. The guidance helps to explain what is mandatory and what are recommendations.

You can download the standards 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.

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 April 2015, Wandsworth Council told us they had licensed 425 HMOs. In January 2016 there were 412 and when we last checked in February 2017, there were 467 licensed HMOs listed. 

Every Council must have a public register of licensed HMOs. The Wandsworth Council HMO register can be viewed on the Council's website

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

We don’t really know. In April 2015, Wandsworth Council told us they had no estimate for the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation covered by the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. Unfortunately, there’s not much more we can tell you. 

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?

Wandsworth Council told us they took four housing prosecutions over the three-year period from April 2011 to March 2014, but no prosecutions under the Housing Act 2004 from April 2014 to March 2016, so on average less than one housing prosecution a year.

Wandsworth 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 648 accredited landlords in Wandsworth, which is the 5th highest 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?

Wandsworth Council have been considering the idea of introducing a property licensing scheme but have decided not to do so, at least in the short term.

On 20 January 2016, a report was presented to the council’s Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee (read here) in response to a petition from 165 residents calling for more action on rogue landlords. In response, the report noted that only a small number of complaints were received from tenants compared to the size of the sector and no further measures were proposed in the report.

In a further report dated 6 July 2016 (read here) - see agenda item 7, the committee reached the conclusion there was insufficient evidence to justify an additional or selective licensing scheme. The recommendation was approved by the Council's Executive a few days later. 

Instead, they have recommended a range of other measures to tackle rogue landlords and drive up standards in the private rented sector. These include improving the information on the council’s website, organising action days to target the worst properties set up an annual landlord / letting agent forum.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you posted if we hear any further 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 September 2016, we checked with Wandsworth Council and were told 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: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Wandsworth Council
Town Hall
Wandsworth High Street
London SW18 2PU

Email: privatehousing@wandsworth.gov.uk
Tel:      020 8871 6171
Website: www.wandsworth.gov.uk

Wandsworth News

Wandsworth Events

Wandsworth Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

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

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8871 6171
Email: privatehousing@wandsworth.gov.uk 
Weblink: Wandsworth HMO licensing

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