London Borough of Lambeth

The London Borough of Lambeth is in South London covering an area of 10 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Wandsworth to the west, Merton, Croydon and Bromley to the south, Southwark to the east and with the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 29% of the housing stock was privately rented which is above the London average of 25% (1 in 4).

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

You do not need a licence if you rent your property to a single family as Lambeth Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme.

If you rent your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), the answer is a bit more complicated. Whilst Lambeth Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, some HMOs do need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales.

You will need an HMO licence if your property:

  • Is three or more storeys high (a storey includes a basement, loft conversion and any storey comprising business premises);
  • Contains five or more people in two or more households; and
  • Contains shared facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. 

Following a recent government announcement, the mandatory HMO licensing criteria look set to change in 2017, bring thousands more properties within the scope of licensing. It is important to keep up to date as these changes could impact on you. You can sign up to our free newsletter for all the latest news.   

How much does a licence cost?

Lambeth Council charges a standard HMO licence fee of £250 per letting room or bedsit. So that would be £1,250 for a three storey shared house with five separate lettings. There is a 20% discount for accredited landlords and a 50% discount for registered charities.

It’s good to see accredited landlords being rewarded in this way and so you may wish to consider joining the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme or another recognised accreditation body.

The fees were correct as of February 2017, but could be subject to change in the future. You can view the fees in full on the Council’s website.

Can I apply for a licence online?

No you can’t, it’s a bit old fashioned although in March 2015 Lambeth Council told us they are developing an online HMO licence application and hope to make it available soon. When we last checked in February 2017, there was still no sign of the online application process on their website.

In the meantime, you can download the application form, complete it by hand and post it back to the Council. The form and accompanying guidance notes can be downloaded from the Council’s website.

Alternatively, you can contact the Council and ask them to send you an application pack in the post. It will cut down on your printing costs as the form is 24 pages long.

You will need to submit various supporting documents with your application including gas and electrical certificates, fire alarm and emergency lighting test certificates and a floor plan of your property, so make sure you have got all your paperwork ready.

If you need assistance with your licence application, we can help you. We offer a unique hassle-free, one-stop-shop service to handle your licence application from start to finish. The service, developed in partnership with McDowalls Surveyors Ltd, means you and your property will be in very safe hands, and all for a fixed fee. To find out more, please drop us a line and we will send you further details, or you can study the information published here.  

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Lambeth Council published a revised set of HMO standards in April 2016. They have separate standards covering shared houses, bedsits, self-contained converted flats and hostels. You can view all the standards on the Council’s website. When you click on the link you will need to scroll down to the bottom of the page.

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

It is important for us to point out that the government are looking to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for HMOs in 2017 – 6.52m2 for one person and 10.23m2 for two people. The local council will still be able to ask for larger minimum sizes. The standards will apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme. If you are concerned about how this will impact on your properties, please contact us for advice. 

How many properties has the Council licensed?

In March 2015, Lambeth Council had licensed 359 HMOs. By May 2016, that figure had increased to 416 and by February 2017, it had risen again to 444.

The Council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that can be viewed on the council’s website. It is sometimes a few months out of date and may need to contact them direct if you want to see the current version.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Possibly. In March 2015, Lambeth Council told us they thought there could be about 600 properties that need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. So that suggests there could still be about 150 unlicensed HMOs out there.

If you are the landlord of one of those properties, its important you act now and get your property licensed to avoid facing the consequences.

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 in the Magistrates Court. If found guilty, you would get a criminal record and could be fined by the Court and ordered to pay court costs and victim surcharge. The maximum fine was £20,000 but in March 2015 the law changed and you can now be fined an unlimited amount, 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?

Lambeth Council told us they had taken eight housing prosecutions over the last three years (April 2011 to March 2014), so on average just under three housing prosecution a year. All the prosecutions involved HMO licensing offences.

The Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016).

However, in 2013 a group of tenants submitted a Rent Repayment Order application after their landlord was prosecuted for operating an unlicensed HMO. The application was successful and the landlord was ordered to pay £7,625.70 to the tenants. This is based on data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

How many accredited landlords are there?

Under the London Rental Standard, there are three approved landlord accreditation schemes operated by the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme, the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).

Whilst we don’t have any figures for the NLA or RLA schemes, 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 820 accredited landlords in Lambeth, which is the 2nd highest out of all London boroughs.

If you have not yet done so, please visit our London Rental Standard page and decide which scheme you want to join. Accredited landlords are entitled to various benefits, including discounted licensing fees in some boroughs.

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

Not at the moment, although in March 2015 Lambeth Council told us they were at an early stage of considering evidence that may lead to future proposals.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will let you know if we hear any more news.

How do I find out more?

To find out more, you can contact the Council at: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Lambeth Council
1st Floor
Blue Star House
234-244 Stockwell Road
London SW9 9SP

Email: privatesectorhousing@lambeth.gov.uk 
Tel:     020 7926 4444
Website: www.lambeth.gov.uk

Lambeth News

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional or selective licensing in Lambeth but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7926 4444
Email: privatesectorhousing@lambeth.gov.uk
Weblink: Lambeth HMO licensing

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