House in multiple occupation (HMO) licence

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

What is a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) exists where three or more unrelated people live in a property and share amenities such as a kitchen, bathroom and/or WC.

This could be a flat, maisonette or a house and the occupiers could be on one or multiple tenancy agreements. 

What standards do HMOs need to meet? 

All HMOs (licensable and non-licensable) are required to meet fire and amenities standards to ensure the means of escape is protected, there is early warning in the event of a fire, there are sufficient amenities for the number of occupiers, the property is not overcrowded and is in good repair.

This service has adopted the LACORS Housing Fire Safety Guidance and the amenity standards are taken from the Housing Act 2004.

Do I have any legal duties for my HMO?

Yes. HMOs are covered by various legislations, but in particular the Housing Act 2004 and The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 which lists eight specific duties which you must follow. 

You may need a licence to rent out a HMO, especially if your property is a house share, divided into bedsits or a hostel. We operate two licensing schemes for HMOs: mandatory licensing and additional licensing.

What is a licensable HMO?

There are two HMO licensing schemes operating within the Royal Borough of Kingston.

1. Mandatory licensing

This came into effect from 6 April 2006 and applies to those properties that:

  • Are three or more storeys high (including any habitable basements or loft conversions)
  • Have five or more people in more than one household (a household is defined under the Act as members of the same family)
  • Where there is sharing of amenities (kitchen, bathroom or a WC).

2. Additional licensing

The Royal Borough of Kingston introduced an additional licensing scheme on 21 December 2012. This applies to those properties that:

  • Are one or two storeys in height and are occupied by five or more people
  • Are three or more storeys in height and are occupied by three or four people.

Note: Commercial premises, basements and attics converted into living space all count as a storey.

What do I need for a licence? 

The licence holder must be able to produce for each HMO:

  • A valid current gas safety certificate
  • Proof the electrical appliances and furniture are safe
  • Proof all smoke alarms are correctly positioned and installed
  • For each occupier, a written statement of terms on which they occupy the property.

The licence will specify the maximum number of occupants who may live in the HMO, there may also be other conditions relating to the condition of the property, or provision of amenities.

The council can refuse to licence the HMO if the property does not meet the conditions above, or the licence applicant is not a fit and proper person to hold the licence.

If a licence is refused the council could issue an Interim Management Order which allows it to manage the property for up to a year.

There is a right of appeal against the decision not to issue a licence, or against any conditions included in the licence.

Is there a fee for a licence? 

Yes, our licensing fees cover the costs of operating the scheme.

Our current fees depend on the number of storeys and the rooms available for letting e.g. a two storey property with five bedrooms would cost £200 x 5 = £1,000.

Discounts are available for landlords who are a member of an accredited scheme (new applications only). Registered charities are entitled to a 50 per cent discount. All discounts are deducted from the total fee and there is a maximum total fee of £3,000 per property.

From 4 April 2016 we have a new fee structure in place and this is detailed in the table below.

 

Application fee

 

Three or more storeys

£240 per letting*. 

Two or   less storeys 

£200 per letting*.

A letting includes:

a. bedsit rooms

b. bedrooms in a shared house or flat which is occupied by more than one household (even if there is only one tenancy agreement for all tenants)

c. self-contained flats in single household occupation within the HMO.

Discount for accredited** licence holder or manager*

£100

On new licence applications only.

Assisted application

 

Additional £300 per HMO

Added to the above for assistance with measuring rooms, producing plans and completing the application form.

Additional penalty fee

 

Additional £300 per HMO

Where no application has been made and the property is then subsequently discovered by the Council, the Additional Penalty Fee will be applied (in addition to the application fee per letting). NB The Council may also decide to prosecute the landlord for committing an offence under Section 72 of the Housing Act 2004.

Renewal of licence

 

Three or more storeys

£200 per letting*.

 

Two or less storeys

£160 per letting*.

If no change in property or licence holder or manager, otherwise fee charged as for new application * See note above.

Minor amendments

 

No Charge

Change of address (for licence holder or manager)

Change of Manager (if no change of licence holder) ***

 

No Charge

Licence holder changing nominated manager (manager has to complete a Fit & Proper Person declaration)

Variation of licence (if no change of licence holder) ***

 

No Charge

Material change to the licence such as new facilities installed and licence can be varied for a greater number of occupiers

 

Revocation of licence / no longer licensable / refuse to licence / numbers of occupants reduced by conditions on licence

 

No Charge

No refund

Once application submitted for specified number of lettings, costs have been incurred in processing application, draft and/or full licence

Student Accommodation:- Application fee for large student accommodation developments

£25 per bed space

This fee only applies to licensable large scale purpose built or converted student accommodation where the provider has not signed up to the ANUK/Unipol Code of Practice.

* Of an approved scheme such as LLAS, NLA, RLA, UKLAP

** Accredited under Accreditation scheme; eg London Landlords Accreditation Scheme(LLAS). For more information see www.londonlandlords.org.uk/accreditation or phone 020 7974 5893 or e-mail LLAS@camden.gov.uk

*** If there is a change of licence holder, this will be treated as a new application

How long does the licence last?

The length of the licence depends on which scheme it is issued under.

  • Mandatory licensing scheme - up to five years from the date of issue.
  • Additional licensing scheme - until 20/12/17*.

* No reduced fees apply for the shorter term.

It would be the Council's intention to apply to extend the Additional Licensing scheme for a further five year period and in this instance, landlords would be required to re-apply for a licence at this time and pay a new licensing fee.

Renewal of licence 

It is your responsibility to ensure that prior to the expiry of your licence; you submit a new application (with fee and supporting documents). To enable this to be processed, we would recommend applying for a renewal 60 days before expiry of your current licence.

Varying your licence 

You can apply to vary your licence for the following reasons: Change to licence holder's name e.g. through marriage Change to licence holder's address Change / addition or removal of person managing. Increase / decrease the number of households / occupiers within the property.

There is no charge vary a licence.

Please note you cannot vary a licence to a new licence holder. If the licence holder changes at any point during the licence period, a new application will need to be submitted including full licence fee and supporting documents. The current licence will be varied and this will replace the previous licence. Licence fees are non-refundable.

Revoking your licence 

If you sell your property, reduce the number of occupiers below licensing requirements or a single family household now occupies the property, you can apply to revoke your licence.

There is no charge to revoke a licence.  We do not issue refunds for licensing fees.

Please note, that if in the future, your property requires a licence; you would have to submit a new application and full fee complete with supporting documents.

What if I want to stop using my property as a licensable HMO? 

If your property currently requires a mandatory or additional licence and it does not have one, you can apply for a temporary exemption notice (TEN). This will enable you a maximum of six months to reduce the number of tenants below the licensing requirement. During the period of the TEN you must be able to demonstrate to the Council that you are actively taking steps to reduce the number of occupiers to below the licensing requirements.

For your information, Section 75 of the Housing Act 2004 prevents a Section 21 Notice from being served on the tenants of an unlicensed HMO.

What are the penalties for operating an unlicensed HMO? 

It is an offence to operate a licensable HMO without a licence. You can be fined an unlimited amount (previously a maximum of £20,000). In addition the Council can take over the management of the property and take the costs of this from any rental income. If prosecuted, the tenants can also apply for a Rent Repayment Order of up to one year's rent.

If you operate a licensed HMO but do not comply with the conditions of the licence that have been set out then the Council may take action for a breach of the licence. This can also result in a prosecution and unlimited fine.

How can the Council help me apply for a licence? 

To support landlords through the process the private sector housing team (PSHT) offers a service that includes; drawing of a sketch plan of the property complete with fire safety requirements, assistance with completing the application form and collating documents prior to submission.

A single £300 fee is charged and added to the cost of the licence. For this service please complete, sign and return this agreement.

HMO licence - fee for enforcement 

To ensure properties are licensed the PSHT operates a proactive service to identify unlicensed properties and enforce standards.

If the PSHT have been required to use excessive resources to ensure compliance with the requirements of HMO Licensing, then an additional fee will be charged.

A single £300 fee is charged and added to the cost of the licence fee in line with the statement of principles that can be found on our website.

I have received a letter from the Council about my property what should I do? 

If you have received a letter from us and your property requires a licence, you must either apply for an HMO licence or a TEN (see above).

If your property is not a licensable HMO, you can complete and return the self declaration form advising us that your property is not an HMO or is an HMO that does not require a licence. The Council may inspect your property to confirm occupation.

Will the Council inspect my property? 

If your property is an HMO that requires a licence, the Council has a duty to inspect to ensure it meets fire and amenity standards and that there are no hazards under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

If your property is a HMO that does not require a licence, the Council may still inspect your property if they have reason to believe there are hazards under the HHSRS.

The Council provides a minimum of 24 hours notice of any inspections. However, if we have reason to believe there are serious offences being committed, we may apply for a warrant of entry and notification would not be given to the owners / occupiers of this inspection.

What is the HHSRS? 

The HHSRS is the system that all Council's use to inspect properties. It consists of 29 hazards including fire, electrical hazards, damp and mould and excess cold. Hazards are classed as either category one or two. If there are any category one hazards, the Council has a duty to take enforcement action to significantly reduce / remove the hazard. For category two hazards, the Council has the option to take enforcement action, this is determined on a case by case basis.

Anti-social behaviour in HMOs 

The Council expects the licence holder and / or the person in control of the HMO to ensure occupiers behaviour in a "tenant like manner".

We would expect you to address any of the following issues to prevent complaints to this Service: noise nuisance rubbish accumulations blocking of communal areas threatening or abusive behaviour drug usage alcohol fuelled incidents

We would expect the licence holder / person in control to take action, where necessary to remove problem tenants if informal warnings were not successful in altering behaviour.

What to do next and contact information.

If you believe your property or any property you manage requires a mandatory or additional licence, you can apply online: Apply for, change or renew your licence or by downloading and completing a printable application form from the same webpage.

If you are unsure as to whether your property needs a HMO licence or if you would like more information and further guidance, please contact the Residential Enforcement Team on 020 8547 5003 or email privatesectorhousing@kingston.gov.uk