Landlord licensing ought to be simple and straightforward. As a landlord you’d apply for a single licence, get one and away you go. Unfortunately landlord licensing isn’t as simple as it could be. Whether or not you need a licence to be a landlord, or to let your property, varies according to where you are, what type of property you rent out and even what street your property is on.

To try and help simplify the process we’ll look at the basics of landlord licensing here.

We’ll start with a look at landlord licensing in England. If your property isn’t in England then more details about landlord licensing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are coming up later.

In England, landlords do not need a general landlord licence at all. Many properties do not need a licence if you want to rent them out either. These are some exceptions however:

HMO licences. If your property is a HMO or a house in multiple occupation which is covered by mandatory HMO licensing then you will need a HMO licence. A HMO under mandatory licensing is generally a larger HMO. It is one which is occupied by five or more people, those people form two or more households and they share some amenities like kitchens and bathrooms.

You can find out about HMO licences, and apply for one, from the relevant local council for the area concerned.

You can find the correct local council here.

Additional licences. If your property is a HMO but doesn’t qualify as one that needs mandatory licensing then you will not necessarily need a licence for it. The exception is if the local council have designated the area as what is known as an additional licensing area. Additional licences usually just apply to a small area of a particular town rather than a whole town. Additional licensing schemes aren’t used by many local councils however.

You can find out if your property is within an additional licensing area, and apply for an additional licence, from your local council.

HMO licences usually need to be renewed every five years, although the local authority can decide to issue shorter licences.

Selective licences. The other kind of licence you might need as a landlord is a selective licence. A selective licence is needed if the local authority have designated the area where your property is located as a selective licensing area. In these areas, a licence is needed to rent out every property of any kind. (Although not a HMO which is covered by mandatory HMO licensing rules in any case.)

Selective licences usually just apply to a small area of a particular town although in some places they apply across a whole town or city area.

Whether you’ll need a selective licence very much depends on the area. Some councils have many selective licensing areas but some councils don’t have them at all. They’re most often found in areas that have a lot of rental properties and especially areas near universities that have a lot of student accommodation.

Selective licensing schemes usually last for five years from when they are introduced and then the local authority has to renew them if they wish to continue using them.

You can find out if your property needs a selective licence, and apply for one, from your local council.

Now we will look at the differences that apply to landlord licensing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced combined landlord and property licensing schemes. In some ways this makes things a little simpler for landlords, although not entirely simple.

Scotland

Scotland has a landlord and property licensing scheme. As a landlord you’ll first need to apply to join the Scottish Landlord Register. Once you’ve done that you can add details of your individual rental properties.

Although landlord and property registrations are held with the relevant local council you can apply and add/amend properties online through a central portal known as the Scottish Landlord Register here.

Whether you need any other licences, such as for a HMO, will depend on what type of rental properties you have and where they are. For more information you’ll need to check with the relevant local authority.

Wales

Wales has the Rent Smart Wales scheme. As a landlord you’ll first need to register with Rent Smart Wales and undertake some training, either in person or online, covering the responsibilities of a landlord. You’ll also need to add details of your rental properties in Wales.

Here are more details about Rent Smart Wales.

Whether you need any other licences, such as for a HMO, will depend on what type of rental properties you have and where they are. Check with the relevant local authority.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has the Landlord Registration Scheme and all landlords must register themselves and their properties. More information is here.

Whether you need any other licences, such as for a HMO, will depend on what type of rental properties you have and where they are. Check with the relevant local authority.

Fees are charged for all these different landlord and property licences. The fee depends on the type of licence, the type of property, where it is located and frequently whether it is a first time licence application or renewal. You’ll need to check with the relevant website to find the total cost of the property or landlord licences you need.