PROPERTY LICENSING FAQS
Frequently asked questions:
Property licensing is the Local Authority’s process of improving living standards in rental accommodation. There are different types of licence for different types of property.
“HMO” stands for house in multiple occupation.
See our help page ‘what is an HMO’ for full details.
The term ‘household’ in this sense refers to either a single person or members of the same family that live together.
The term ‘family’ includes:
– Couples that are married or living together (regardless of sexual orientation)
– All relatives and half relatives – e.g. grandparents, aunts, step-sisters etc.
Each ‘family’ within a property forms a separate household.
3 brothers or sisters living together are one household (not an HMO)
3 friends living together are 3 households (HMO)
2 couples living together are two households (HMO)
1 couples and one single person are two households (HMO)
Find out more, on our what is an HMO property page.
At present there is not a solid guideline that covers all councils, but our recommendation and practice is to do the following:
- Organise an inspection of the property to the standards of the local authority
- Carry out a Fire Safety Risk Assessment and any other certification you know will be needed for the licence application (e.g. gas certificates etc.)
- Use the reports to outline where the property is not compliant and requires work
- Apply for the licence using the information from the reports and details of planned works, ensuring no undue liability is taken
- Wait for the council to process the application and inspect the property to ensure compliance
- Organise all work to be carried out by accredited contractors to the appropriate BS standards
Why might I inspect the property before the council does?
Many clients ask us why they shouldn’t just wait for the council to inspect and then do any work necessary.
Our advice is that although there is nothing to stop you doing this, it is important to fully understand what you are signing when you apply for a licence.
- If you do not know whether your property meets specification and what the costs will be then how do you know if you want to run a licensable property?
- When the council inspects the property, they will give you a basic specification of what is required, and a short deadline to complete it by. This means that you are likely to have to pay a large amount for an accredited company to do it rapidly, or take liability for meeting the standard independently.
The exact requirements will vary per property with a huge number of influencing factors, but here are some basic fire safety standards you may need for your residential property.
Automatic Fire Detection System (AFD)
A mains wired, interlinked system is a minimum standard under the LACORS guidelines and is recommended be installed and tested by a 3rd party accredited company, BAFE is an example of accreditation these companies will have.
Whether fire doors are required depends on the layout of the property, how complex the escape route is and the risk level identified. It would be very unusual to require fire doors on bedrooms in a 3 person shared house, but if a kitchen leads onto the escape route you are likely to require a fire door to the kitchen.
These should be installed by a 3rd party accredited contractor, BM Trade Q-Mark is an example of accreditation these companies will have..
Fire extinguishers and fire blankets
These are required under the LACORS guidelines, fire extinguishers must be correctly installed and tested annually by a 3rd party accredited company, BAFE is an example of accreditation these companies will have.
Fire Safety Risk Assessment
All HMO’s require a Residential Fire Safety Risk assessment under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. They are also required for the common parts of buildings divided into flats.
These can be carried out by the licence holder if they declare themselves a competent person, however it is very important they have a comprehensive understanding of the legislation.
If an accident occurs and the assessment is thought to be insufficient, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.
To absolutely prove competence, Fire Risk Assessors should be members of the Institute of Fire Safety Managers, and have completed risk assessment courses accredited by the institute.
To initially apply for the licence you only require:
- Gas Safety Certificate
- Floor Plan
However, in order to be issued a licence without conditions you will require some or all of the following:
- EICR (currently just HMOs but will shortly be all rental property)
- PAT testing (HMOs only)
- Fire alarm installation and testing certificates (most properties)
- Emergency lighting certificate (where emergency lighting is required)
- Fire Safety Risk Assessment (HMOs only)
- Management agreement (where the owner is not the licence holder)
In some cases you will be asked for more of the above certification on application.
By signing as the licence holder, you’re taking on the responsibility of ensuring the relevant fire safety and health and safety standards are being complied with.
The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006
Details the responsibilities of the licence holder and tenants. These requirements also apply to Selective licensing under many councils. The legislation puts the responsibility on the licence holder to ensure the property complies with fire safety and health and safety standards.
LACORS fire safety guidance
Published with the support of local government and the Association of Chief Fire Officers, this is the standard used by Local Authorities to determine fire safety measures. Regardless of the type of property, this guidance will help you determine a satisfactory level of fire protection.
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (HMOs only)
The Order applies to almost all buildings, including HMOs. It emphasises risk reduction and fire prevention and requires licence holders to have a detailed fire risk assessment of their properties carried out.
Alongside these, each council will outline their particular expectations from landlords.
If you let a property that requires a license but doesn’t have one:
- You cannot evict tenants under section 21
- Tenants can file for a rent repayment order for up to 12 months rent
- You can be issued a civil penalty of up to £30,000
- Following a successful prosecution, you would most likely fail a fit and proper person assessment, making it very difficult to obtain a licence in future.
We also do a “reports only” service for any type of licence- this is where we inspect the property in the same way as the council would and highlight any areas which do not meet legal requirements. This way you are able to get your property up to scratch in a sensible timeframe, without the costs associated with having to work to a tight deadline.
A ‘rent receiver’ is the party that gets the money from tenants in the first instance, which is typically estate agents when it comes to managed properties.
This is a complicated section of the law and agents should seek legal advice if in any doubt.
However, it is a good idea to get organised with all required documentation to ensure you can apply as soon as tenants move in.
Types of licence:
An HMO with 5 or more unrelated persons, from more than one household, sharing facilities will require a mandatory licence. This applies to all HMO properties in England however there are exemptions to the rule. Find out more about Mandatory HMO Licensing here.
Any HMO that doesn’t fall under the mandatory scheme may need this type of HMO licence. This is not an England & Wales-wide scheme and only some councils have this in place over the whole borough or in certain wards, streets or postcodes. Find out more about Additional HMO Licensing here.
A number of councils have included Section 257 HMOs within their Additional licensing schemes. These are whole buildings that:
- have been converted into self-contained flats;
- the conversion did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply; and
- less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied.
I’m an overseas landlord – what do I need to know?
Any UK-based individual, company or charity can hold your licence. Therefore a family member, friend, or your managing agent (if applicable) can theoretically be the licence holder, however all parties must understand their legal responsibilities.
By taking on the licence an individual is stating legally that the property is compliant and takes responsibility to ensure that it will continue to meet the requirements for the entire course of the licensing scheme.
The licence holder is therefore liable to penalties if the property is found to be in breach of legislation during its initial council inspection or during any visit for the length of the scheme (e.g. following a complaint from a tenant). Currently, a breach of any conditions of the licence is usually £5000 per individual condition.
For this reason, agents and friends are often reluctant to take on responsibility for holding a licence.
If you need any further advice or would like a quote for holding your licence please get in touch.
How can HMO Services help?
To our knowledge we are the only company to provide a comprehensive property licensing management service across all London boroughs.
- Full service licence applications
- Fire Safety Risk Assessments
- Health and safety and living standards reports
- Licence holding services for overseas landlords
- Accredited building works to council specification
- Certification and paperwork e.g. PAT testing, floor plans, EICRs, etc.
If you need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.