City of Westminster

The City of Westminster covers an area of 8 square miles in the heart of London, including much of the West End. It is bordered by the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea to the west, Brent and Camden to the north, City of London to the east and with the River Thames to the south. According to the 2011 Census, about 40% of the housing stock was privately rented which is significantly higher that 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 the City of Westminster 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 the City of Westminster 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?

The City of Westminster charges an HMO licence fee of £285 per unit of accommodation with an upper limit of £7,000. So that would be £1,425 for a three storey property with five single person lettings. Licence renewals are charged at a slightly lower £255 per unit of accommodation.

Registered charities that provide accommodation solely for vulnerable persons are not charged a fee when they apply for a licence.

We couldn’t see any discount offered to accredited landlords, which we think is a shame. 

The fees we have listed were correct as of May 2017 but could be subject to change in the future.  You can view the fees in full on the Council’s website. Once you click on the link, you will need to select option 3 – Application fees and how to pay.

Can I apply for a licence online?

Yes you can. The City of Westminster has an online HMO licensing application process that you can access from the Council’s website. Once you click on this link, you just select the option ‘Apply for a licence’.

You could previously download an application form to complete by hand but last time we checked, that option had disappeared from the website. 

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 a sample tenancy agreement. 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 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, the City of Westminster have a suite of HMO standards covering Bedsits / studio flats, self-contained flats, flats in multiple occupation and hostels.

You can download the standards from the Council’s website. Once you click on this link, you will need to select option 7 – Further information and publications.

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 – 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, the City of Westminster told us they had licensed 276 HMOs. By April 2016 the number had fallen slightly to 268 and by May 2017 it had increased to 289 according to their public register. 

Every Council must have a public register of licensed HMOs. The City of Westminster register can be viewed online here. Once you click on the link, you will need to select option 7 – Further information and publications.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

We don’t really know. In March 2015, the City of Westminster 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 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?

The City of Westminster told us they took four housing prosecutions over the three year period from April 2011 to March 2014. They told us they have no figures for prosecutions in 2014/15 so we have assumed the figure was zero. In 2015/16 the council took a further four successful prosecutions under the Housing Act 2004. 

The City of Westminster 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 607 accredited landlords in the City of Westminster, which is the 10th 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?

Possibly. In March 2015 the City of Westminster told us they were carrying out a scoping exercise to investigate the links between anti-social behaviour and the private rented sector. They said that the exercise would help to ascertain if there was a need for a selective licensing scheme.

However, in October 2016, the council told us they had decided not to move forwards with a development of a selective licensing scheme, mainly due to ‘database issues’. The council are still keeping open the option of an additional licensing scheme but have postponed any decision until they have reviewed the results of the government’s mandatory HMO licensing review.

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 October 2016, we checked with Westminster City Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force and no known plans to consult on one in 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: 

Residential Environmental Health Team
Westminster City Council
City Hall, 4th Floor
64 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QP

Email: reh@westminster.gov.uk
Tel:       020 7641 6161
Website: www.westminster.gov.uk

Westminster News

Westminster Events

Westminster Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in the City of Westminster but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7641 6161
Email: reh@westminster.gov.uk
Weblink: Westminster HMO licensing

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