Property Rental Licensing Requirements in the UK . In specific London areas, certain privately rented properties are obligated to hold a property license, and the landlord must secure it. This isn’t just a formality; it’s a legal requirement signifying the property’s suitability for habitation and adherence to acceptable standards.
As a tenant, it’s your right to ensure your landlord complies with their legal responsibilities. One approach is to verify if your landlord has acquired the essential license for the property you’re leasing. If they haven’t or if you suspect they’re not following the license terms, you might have valid grounds to seek a partial rent refund.
What does property licensing mean?
Property licensing serves a crucial role in regulating the rental market, enhancing tenant safety, and elevating the quality of privately rented residences. It encompasses three key categories:
Mandatory HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Licensing:
- Applicable to most properties shared by 5 or more individuals from 2 or more households.
- Pertinent when tenants share facilities like bathrooms, toilets, or kitchens.
Additional HMO Licensing:
- Typically covers smaller properties shared by 3 or 4 individuals from 2 or more households.
- Relevant when tenants share facilities like bathrooms, toilets, or kitchens.
- Can extend to all privately rented properties within specific designated areas.
- Aims to maintain uniform standards and compliance.
Local authorities employ licensing as a tool to oversee the rental property landscape in their areas. The primary objectives include ensuring tenants’ access to safe and well-maintained housing and minimizing adverse impacts on neighborhoods, particularly from multi-occupancy rentals.
The inception of licensing in England and Wales dates back to 2006 under the Housing Act 2004. Its initial focus was to enhance safety standards in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), which were prone to fire hazards. Over time, licensing’s scope has broadened to elevate standards in HMOs and other rented properties in general.
While not all rental properties require licensing, those falling under its purview must obtain a valid license from the local council before being rented out.
Does my rented property need a license?
Understanding the significance of a property license is essential for tenants. If your landlord serves a section 21 notice of possession and lacks the necessary property license by the notice’s date, the notice may be invalid. Section 21 notices are typically the initial step in eviction proceedings.
In such a scenario, you may have the right to request a Rent Repayment Order for the period your property remains unlicensed. A Rent Repayment Order, granted by a tribunal, can compel the landlord to reimburse up to 12 months’ worth of rent. Organizations like Justice for Tenants offer free guidance on Rent Repayment Orders.
Furthermore, landlords without proper property licenses could face enforcement actions from the local council. This underscores the importance of ensuring your rented home adheres to licensing requirements.
Do I need a landlord licence for my rental property?
The necessity for a property license hinges on factors like the property’s size, type, and your location within the UK.
As a general guideline, ‘mandatory’ licensing regulations typically stipulate that a license may be required if you’re renting to more than two sharers:
- In England and Wales, large HMOs (housing five or more unrelated sharers) must have a license. Smaller HMOs might also need one if the local authority implements an ‘additional licensing’ scheme.
- In Scotland and Northern Ireland, any property classified as an HMO necessitates a license.
For detailed insights into mandatory licensing for HMOs, please refer to the following section. Notably, in England and Wales, local authorities can establish their additional licensing rules under a ‘selective licensing’ scheme, applicable to any rented property, not limited to HMOs.
If you’re considering property investment in England or Wales, it’s advisable to reach out to the local council before purchase to gain a clear understanding of the specific licensing regulations for the area.
Mandatory HMO licensing
The one category of rental property subject to mandatory licensing regulations throughout the UK is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). However, the specifics vary based on the HMO’s size and location.
England and Wales
National licensing regulations stipulate that every large HMO, defined as a property where five or more individuals from multiple households live together, sharing toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities, must obtain a license that is valid for five years.
To secure this license, several key conditions must be met:
- The house must be suitable for the number of occupants.
- The property manager, whether the landlord or an agent, must be deemed ‘fit and proper,’ meaning they have no criminal record and have not violated any codes of practice.
Additionally, landlords must:
- Provide the council with an annual copy of the gas safety certificate.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms.
- Furnish the council with safety certificates for electrical appliances upon request.
The council may impose additional conditions on the license, which could involve upgrading facilities.
The cost of a five-year license varies across local authorities, typically ranging from £500 to £1,000. However, landlords in London may face fees up to 50 percent higher.
For more detailed information, you can visit GOV.UK. In England, smaller HMOs and other types of rented properties may also require a license, depending on the policies of your local authority.
Every property that accommodates a minimum of three unrelated tenants who share bathroom, toilet, and kitchen facilities must obtain a license, which remains valid for three years.
To secure this license, you need to provide the local authority with the following:
- Your personal details and property information.
- Copies of the tenancy agreement(s).
- The gas safety certificate.
Similar to the regulations in England and Wales, the council may impose additional conditions on the license.
The licensing fee is calculated based on the number of tenants and typically falls within the range of £200 to £300 per tenant, depending on the policies of the local council.
For more comprehensive information, you can visit the GOV.UK website.
Any property that serves as the primary residence for three or more individuals from more than two households necessitates a license, which holds a five-year validity.
The licensing fee is determined by the number of tenants and currently stands at £185 per person.
For further details, you can refer to the Belfast City Council website.
Please note that landlords in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland must also be registered with an appropriate scheme, in addition to obtaining the necessary licenses for their properties.
Different types of licensing scheme from different councils
In addition to the national HMO licensing requirements, every council in England has the power to introduce its own licensing rules, which fall into two categories:
1. Additional licensing
The national law pertains to ‘large’ HMOs, but councils have the authority to implement licensing regulations for smaller HMOs. These smaller HMOs are properties occupied by at least three tenants from more than one household who share toilet, bathroom, or kitchen facilities.
2. What is selective licensing?
Local councils have the authority to mandate licensing for various types of privately rented homes. However, if a council intends to implement a licensing scheme that covers more than 20 percent of their area or rental properties, they must obtain government approval. These selective licensing schemes typically have a duration of five years.
For example, Hammersmith and Fulham previously had a selective licensing scheme that applied to all rented properties in 128 streets within the borough from 2017 to 2022. However, their current scheme, running from 2022 to 2027, only covers 24 streets.
Croydon also revised its landlord licensing requirements after an initial scheme that encompassed all privately rented properties in the entire borough. Between October 2015 and September 2020, 38,596 licences were issued, and approximately 40 percent of licensed properties underwent inspection.
Under selective licensing, councils have the authority to assess whether an individual qualifies as a ‘fit and proper’ landlord and can impose various safety and property management requirements.
This decentralization of licensing rules has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side:
- It enables each council to maintain a suitable balance of housing stock and prevent over-saturation of HMOs in a neighborhood.
- Councils can ensure rental properties meet safety and condition standards before letting, with periodic reviews at each license renewal.
- Councils can more easily identify and prosecute landlords who violate the law.
However, there are challenges:
- Processing license applications and investigating violations can be time-consuming, and many councils face staffing limitations.
- License fees are an additional cost for landlords.
- The variation between different council schemes and their potential amendments or discontinuations can create confusion for landlords, potentially leading to unintentional non-compliance.
To determine if any additional or selective licensing schemes are in effect in your area or are planned for the near future, contact your local council’s housing department.