London Borough of Lambeth

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Lambeth, 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 HMO licensing scheme.

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 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. Lambeth Council have implemented an additional licensing scheme that came into force on 9 December 2021. There is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England.

To help you decide if you need a licence we’ve outlined the two HMO licensing schemes below:

1. Mandatory HMO licensing

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 licensing

The additional licensing scheme came into force on 9 December 2021 and continues for five years unless it is revoked earlier by the council.

The scheme applies to all HMOs in the London Borough of Lambeth, so that includes all properties shared by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities. You can view the public notice in the ‘More Information’ box on the right of this webpage.

We understand the council have included ‘section 257 HMOs: certain converted blocks of flats’ in the scheme. These are properties that:

  • have been converted into self-contained flats; and
  • less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied; and
  • the conversion did not comply with the relevant Building Regulations in force at that time and still does not comply.

This is a complex area of law and you may need further advice.

How much does a licence cost?

There is a standard HMO licence fee of £506 per bedroom (was £289 until 8 December 2021, £279 in 2020/21, £273 in 2018/19, £267 in 2017/18, £250 in 2016/17), so that is £2,530 for a shared house with five separate lettings.

There is a 20% discount for accredited landlords and members of certain professional bodies. 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 organisation to benefit.

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

How do I apply for a licence?

The council have an online application system that can be found on the council’s website. Their original online application system was a bit clunky and difficult to navigate. We are pleased to see they moved to a new online application system in March 2023.

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 offer a licence application handling service in Lambeth 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, Lambeth Council have published a suite of HMO standards. 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.

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 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 apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme.

How many properties has the Council licensed?

In March 2015, Lambeth Council had licensed 359 HMOs. By May 2016, the figure had increased to 416 and by February 2017, it had risen to 444 and by October 2018 it had risen to 468.

When we asked the council in May 2019, the number of licensed HMOs had reduced to 425 although by October 2020, there were 511 licensed HMOs in their public register.

By March 2021, there were 531 licensed HMOs listed in the public register although by December 2021, the number had dropped to 442.

The council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that can be searched on the council’s website. If you want to new the full register, you will need to contact the council.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, there do seem to be. In May 2019, Lambeth Council told us they thought there were about 4,000 properties that need a licence under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme. That suggests there could be over 3,000 properties where no licence application has yet been submitted.

The council estimate another 5,000 HMOs will need to be licensed under their additional licensing scheme that started on 9 December 2021.  

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 of non-compliance.

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 a 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?

Lambeth Council told us they took eight housing prosecutions in the three year period from April 2011 to March 2014, two in 2014/15, eight in 2015/16 and none in 2016/17, so on average three housing prosecutions a year. 

The council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the six years from April 2011 to March 2017.

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. 

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 820 accredited landlords in Lambeth, which was the second highest out of all London boroughs.

January 2018: 1,042 accredited landlords
January 2019: 1,130 accredited landlords
January 2020: 1,245 accredited landlords
January 2021: 1,382 accredited landlords
January 2022: 1,861 accredited landlords

By January 2023 there were 2,096 accredited landlords, which is the third highest 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?

On 18 December 2020, Lambeth Council launched a public consultation on plans to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme. The consultation ended on 12 March 2021. You can find out more information on the council’s website.

On 4 August 2021, the Cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness decided to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme and you can find more information on the council’s website

The licensing scheme designation was made on 8 September 2021 and came into force on 9 December 2021.

In the meantime, we will continue to monitor what’s happening. You can sign up to our free newsletter to receive all the latest updates direct to your inbox.

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 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.

In September 2017, we checked with Lambeth Council and found that there was no HMO Article 4 Direction in force. We checked their website again in January 2021 and there is no HMO Article HMO Direction listed.

This means that you do not need planning permission for a change of use from a single-family property (use class C3) to a small HMO shared by three to six unrelated residents (use class C4), although the situation could change in the future.

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. More information can be found on the council’s website.

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: 

Private Sector Housing Team
Lambeth Council
Town Hall
Brixton Hill
London SW2 1RW

Tel:     020 7926 4444

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

In Lambeth, mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide. There is no selective licensing scheme.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7926 4444
Weblink: Lambeth HMO licensing

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