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Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

Guidance, information and documents to apply for a HMO licence.

Published on: 24 September 2021

Last updated: 24 September 2021

HMO licensing FAQ's

How long will it take to process my application?

We aim to process applications within 3 months of receipt of a valid application.

If there are any delays, you can view the progress of the application by logging into your licensing portal account. We will also try and keep you informed if there are any delays in processing your application or if any additional information is required.

Can I let my property before receiving the licence?

Yes, as long as you have submitted a valid application you can legally let the property.

Will you need to inspect the property before issuing the licence?

We will always inspect high risk or large properties prior to issuing a licence. For smaller, lower risk properties where adequate floor plans and documentation have been provided, we may issue the licence without inspecting the property. In such situations we will conduct a compliance inspection at a later date.

The application is asking for certificates that I don’t have ?

All applications will require an electrical safety certificate (EICR) and a gas safety certificate (if there is gas in the property). This will not apply to s257 applications where the licence holder does not control any of the accommodation. It is only a requirement to provide fire alarm and emergency lighting certificates if systems are already provided in the property. A fire alarm certificate will not normally be required for many small HMO’s that don’t have a system that requires professional servicing.

I have only just found out about additional licensing, is there a grace period?

Whilst we have conducted extensive consultation exercises and promotion of the scheme, we appreciate that it is difficult to reach everyone. If you own or manage a licensable property, you should submit an application as soon as possible. We aim to work with landlords to ensure they are compliant and will continue to adopt a fair and proportional response to enforcement at the start of the scheme. Our aim is to improve property conditions and management arrangements, not catch people out. Where delays are expected, you should notify us.

My freeholder, mortgage company or management company advises I can’t operate a HMO?

If the property is already occupied, you must apply for a licence and resolve any contractual dispute later. Legally you can’t evict tenants if you don’t hold a licence. Also, the tenants may be able to obtain a Rent Repayment Order for the time the property was unlicensed.

You may want to seek legal advice in relation to any restrictions on your lease, and whether these are enforceable. You may also want to check that your mortgage permits multiple occupation. Different criteria may apply to smaller HMO’s with less than 5 people.

The licence fee is split into two parts (part A & part B), when will the part B payment be taken?

The Part B payment will automatically be collected using the payment details provided when we have made the decision that the application is valid and we have made a decision to issue the draft licence.

I have rooms under the permitted size, what should I do?

Please submit your application detailing all room sizes.  You do not need to take any action until we have assessed your application. There is a statutory minimum bedroom size of 6.51 m² for a single bedroom and 10.21 m² for a double. We have a legal duty to act where statutory bedroom size requirements are breached but will allow an 18-month period for this to be corrected. Where room sizes fall short of our locally set Westminster Standards, a property inspection will be conducted to determine the overall suitability of the property and relevant occupation limits.

Can I complete a paper application form?

The application process for an HMO property licence is online only. Our online functionality allows for necessary follow-up questions to automatically generate as an applicant progresses through the application (which is otherwise not practicable with paper forms). The questions generated for applicants to answer will of course differ from property and property, and this is essentially guided by the information entered for each question. You can start and return to an application at any time.

If you do not have access to a computer, you are welcome to use any of Westminster’s libraries for this purpose. Additionally, there are a number of agencies and management companies specialising in HMO licensing services that can complete the application on your behalf. 

If a tenancy formed with a live-in housekeeper or nanny, is the member of staff considered part of the same household?

If you have someone living with you (and your family) who does domestic work, shares your accommodation, and does not pay rent, they (and their family) are considered part of your household. 

This includes domestic employees including, nannies, au-pairs, cleaners, care workers etc.

Does having a single tenancy for sharers exempt me from licensing?

No. There is no legal difference between single and joint tenancies for the purpose of HMO licensing. If there were landlords could evade licensing by the simple expedient of changing the tenancy.

I am a managing agent with multiple properties to licence. Will my clients be penalised if their application is not submitted on time?

We are aware that some agents will have multiple clients and will need additional time to formally apply for a licence for each property. We are encouraging managing agents and large portfolio holders to discuss with us their portfolios and agree a manageable time frame for the submission of applications. Only where there a deliberate attempt to evade licensing or a property has significant hazards will the council instigate formal action.

Will I have to evict tenants if my property is unsuitable?

If the property is unsuitable for the number of tenants currently accommodated landlords will be issued a licence stating the number for which it is suitable. If this is more than currently accommodated landlords may keep their existing tenants until the expiry of the current tenancy and regularise the situation by not reletting that room or rooms. No new occupiers should be admitted until occupiers match the number permitted on the licence.

What are the contact details at WCC and what help can you provide?

For information about fees, application forms and general information please direct enquirers to the main website.

For those queries that cannot be answered from the website, we have a dedicated team of environmental health and licensing officers on hand to provide all the necessary support and information by making an online enquiry or by emailing: [email protected]