Royal Borough of Greenwich

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Greenwich you have come to the right place! We are experts in housing regulation and have produced this free guide to help you understand the council’s property licensing schemes.

If you find that you need a licence for your rented property our support doesn’t end there. Our Landlord Suppliers Directory (view here) lists companies that offer a licence application handling service. You can also find companies offering a wide range of other goods and services to help you manage your property portfolio and achieve compliance.

To help set the scene, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is in South East London covering an area of 18 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Lewisham to the west, Bromley to the south, Bexley to the east and with the Thames river to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 20% (1 in 5) of the housing stock was privately rented which is lower than the London average of 25% (1 in 4).

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

There are currently two licensing schemes operating in Greenwich. A third licensing scheme recently ended. We will help you choose the right licence for your property:

1. Mandatory HMO licence

You will need a mandatory HMO licence if your property meets the standard test, self-contained flat test or converted building test HMO definition in section 254 of the Housing Act 2004 and is occupied by five or more people.

But what are these tests and what does this mean in practice? It means you need a licence for any house or flat that is occupied by five or more people who are not all related and live in the property as their main home. For example, it includes:

  • Shared houses and flats occupied by students and young professionals;
  • Properties converted into bedsits with some shared facilities; and
  • Properties converted into a mixture of self-contained and non self-contained accommodation.  

Prior to 1 October 2018, the mandatory HMO licensing scheme only applied to properties that were three or more storeys in height, but that restriction has now been lifted.

The government have decided to exclude purpose built self-contained flats within a block comprising three or more self-contained flats from the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. While this will be good news for some landlords, it does make the licensing scheme far more complicated.

To find out more, you can read our free guide to mandatory HMO licensing (here).

2. Additional licence

Greenwich Council's additional licensing scheme ended on 30 September 2022. The council are consulting on a replacement scheme from 13 January to 24 April 2023.

The previous scheme extended licensing to all HMOs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, including all properties shared by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities. The council had also included ‘section 257 HMOs: certain converted blocks of flats’ in the scheme.

Licences granted under the old scheme remain in force until the expiry date on the licence.

To find out more, you can read our free guide to additional licensing (here).

3. Selective licence

Greenwich Council introduced a selective licensing scheme on 1 October 2022 and the scheme will continue for five years.

You can find a copy of the scheme designation in the orange ‘More Information’ box on the right side of this webpage.

You need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single household or two unrelated sharers and is in parts of Plumstead, Glyndon, Shooters Hill, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside council wards. Now the additional licensing scheme has ended, some HMOs may also need licensing under this scheme. 

There is an online search facility on the council’s website to check whether your property falls within the selective licensing area.

To find out more, you can read our free guide to selective licensing (here).

How much does a licence cost?

It depends on the type of licence you are applying for.

Mandatory HMO and additional licence

The standard application fee is £408 (was £400 2021/22, in £388 in 2019 and £377 in 2018/19) per habitable room in an HMO. This is a significant increase from the £147.11 per unit that was charged in 2017/18. The fee is now £2,040 for a shared house with five lettings.

The council charge a reduced fee to landlords who are a member of a professional landlord association or accreditation scheme, which we think is a good idea.

Selective licence

The standard application fee is £780 per property, payable in two instalments.

Until 31 December 2022, Greenwich Council were charging a reduced fee of £312 per property, but that discount is no longer available.

The council are offering fee discounts to accredited landlords, new build properties, and landlords willing to accept tenants nominated by the council.

The fees are correct as of April 2023 but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees on the council’s website.

How do I apply for a licence?

There is an online application and payment system on the council’s website. When you click on the link, there is one application process for HMO licensing and one for selective licensing, so make sure you pick the right option.

If you need assistance with your licence application, you can find companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here). We also offer a licence application handling service and you can find further information here. Simply complete the online enquiry form to get the process underway.

It is important to remember that submitting a licence application is only the start of the licence approval process. To help landlords understand what happens next, we have published a free guide here.

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Greenwich Council have published HMO Standards that apply to all licensed HMOs. They provide useful guidance that all HMO landlords need to be aware of. The standards were updated in April 2019 and you can download a copy by visiting the council’s website.

The standards cover a range of issues such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities, fire precautions, heating, lighting, ventilation and room sizes.

It is important to note that new absolute minimum bedroom sizes for licensed HMOs have been introduced for HMO licence applications approved on or after 1 October 2018:

  • 4.64m2 for a child under 10 years old
  • 6.51m2 for one person over 10 years old
  • 10.22m2 for two people over 10 years old

The council can still ask for larger minimum sizes. These new minimum sizes will apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme.

How many properties has the Council licensed?

As of December 2014, Greenwich Council had licensed 54 HMOs. By February 2016 the number had risen to 64, by September 2016 it had risen to 80 and by December 2017, it had risen again to 108.

In May 2019, the council told us there were 279 HMOs licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 589 licensed under their additional licensing scheme.

In November 2020, there were 546 HMOs licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and 809 licensed under their additional licensing scheme.

In September 2021, there were 1245 licensed HMOs listed in the public register on the council’s website. It doesn’t break down the figure between the two HMO licensing schemes. This suggests the number of licensed HMOs may actually have reduced over the last 12 months.

The council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that is regularly updated and can be viewed online

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In May 2019, Greenwich Council told us they think about 2,250 properties need to be licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme and a further 7,500 properties need to be licensed under the additional licensing scheme.

By the time the additional licensing scheme ended in September 2022, far fewer properties had been licensed.

The council estimate that a further 4,400 properties need licensing under the new selective licensing scheme.

What happens if I don't get a licence?

Ignore the law and you could pay a heavy price. You risk being prosecuted by the council and if found guilty you could get a criminal record, be fined an unlimited amount and ordered to pay court costs and victim surcharge.

Alternatively, the council can issue you with a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000 for not having the correct licence without any warning being given, so this is really serious stuff.  

You could also be subject to a Rent Repayment Order and may have to repay up to 12 months rental income.

Whilst the property is unlicensed, you can’t use a Notice of Seeking Possession under Section 21 Housing Act 1988 to evict your tenants. 
And following a successful prosecution, you would probably fail a fit and proper person assessment, making it very difficult for you to obtain a property licence in the future.

Don’t put your livelihood and reputation at risk. Make sure you comply with the law.

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Greenwich Council told us they took fifteen housing prosecutions over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016, so on average three prosecutions a year. 

Greenwich Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the six years from April 2011 to March 2017. This is based on data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

For all the latest information, you can search for housing prosecutions on the Mayor of London's 'Rogue landlord and agent checker', available here.  

How many accredited landlords are there?

There are landlord accreditation schemes operated by the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and other organisations. 

Whilst we don’t have any figures for the NRLA scheme, we have got information about the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme that is supported by all the London Boroughs. In January 2016, they told us there were 243 accredited landlords in Greenwich, which was the lowest number out of all London boroughs. 

January 2018: 655 accredited landlords
January 2019: 793 accredited landlords
January 2020: 841 accredited landlords and
January 2021: 902 accredited landlords
January 2022: 1,144 accredited landlords

By January 2023 there were 1,337 accredited landlords which is slightly below average when compared to all the London boroughs. To find out more about becoming accredited, you can visit the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme website here.

In addition to training and development, accredited landlords are entitled to various benefits, including discounted licensing fees in some boroughs. If you are not already a member, we would encourage you to think about joining!

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

Greenwich Council started consulting on a proposed additional licensing scheme from 9 November 2022 to 18 January 2023. The consultation was not well advertised, it lacked a supporting evidence base and we did not find out about it until late December. After we highlighted some concerns to the council, they decided to relaunch the consultation. The new consultation is taking place from 13 January to 24 March 2023, further extended until 24 April 2023, and you can find out more by visiting the council’s website.

Previously, Greenwich Council consulted on plans for a selective licensing scheme from 17 February 2020. The area under consideration included Woolwich Common, Glyndon, Woolwich Riverside, Shooters Hill and Plumstead wards. The consultation was due to run until 26 April 2020 but was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consultation restarted on 23 July 2020 and ended on 10 September 2020. You can find more information on the council’s website.

On 23 March 2022, Greenwich Council’s Cabinet meeting approved the new selective licensing scheme (read here) and it came into force on 1 October 2022.

There is clearly a lot happening in Greenwich and so we will monitor the situation closely. For all the latest news, you can sign up to our free newsletter.

Do I need planning permission for my HMO?

You will need planning permission if you are changing your property from a single-family property to a house in multiple occupation (HMO) occupied by more than six people. HMOs occupied by more than six people fall within ‘sui-generis’ use for which planning permission is required. You will also need planning permission if you a splitting up a property into smaller self-contained units of accommodation.

For small HMOs, the rules are a bit more complicated. HMOs occupied and shared by between three and six people fall into planning use class C4 whereas single-family properties fall into planning use class C3.

On 27 September 2017, the council made a non-immediate borough-wide HMO Article 4 Direction which was later confirmed.

From 27 September 2018, planning permission is required to change any property from a single-family home (use class C3) to an HMO with up to six occupants (use class C4). So even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

The changes are not retrospective and so properties converted into small HMOs (use class C4) before that date are not affected. More information is available on the council’s website

Remember that this is only intended as general advice and no liability can be accepted for any reliance upon information provided. We would strongly encourage you to contact the Council’s Planning Department or seek independent legal advice before you start a new HMO development.

Can you help me find the goods and services I need?

We certainly can. We understand the challenges of being a private landlord and so we have developed a Landlord Suppliers Directory to provide you with access to the goods and services you need. The Directory concentrates on businesses that operate in the London area.

Whether you a looking for a letting agent, want a property inventory for a new tenancy or fire risk assessment, we have got it covered - and far more besides!

As the leading experts in property licensing, we also offer a range of services ourselves. From handling the licence application process to advice on new HMO developments, we can help to ensure your property business remains compliant. If you need assistance, please drop us a line and see if we can help! 

New suppliers are regularly being added and we would encourage you to take a look. Some of our featured listings also contain YouTube videos, helping you to find out more about the business. 

How do I find out more?

You can contact the council at: 

Residential Services Team
Royal Borough of Greenwich
4th Floor, Woolwich Centre
35 Wellington Street
London SE18 6HQ

Tel:   020 8921 8152

Greenwich News

Greenwich Events

Greenwich Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

Mandatory HMO licensing applies borough wide and a selective licensing scheme started on 1 October 2022.

Greenwich Council are consulting on a proposed additional licensing scheme from 13 January to 24 April 2023.

More Information

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