London Borough of Bexley

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Bexley 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. We can handle the licence application process and give you expert advice and guidance along the way (read here). Once you have read through our guide, if you do need any assistance you can contact us here.  

We also have a Landlord Suppliers Directory (here) to help you find the goods and services you need in the London area, with new suppliers regularly added. 

To help set the scene, the London Borough of Bexley is in South East London covering an area of 23 square miles. It is bordered by the boroughs of Greenwich to the west, Bromley to the south, with Kent to the east and the River Thames to the north. According to the 2011 Census about 11% (1 in 10) of the housing stock was privately rented which is a lot lower than the London average of 25% (1 in 4). 

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

The licensing rules recently changed in Bexley so it is important you study the details carefully.

On 1 October 2018, Bexley Council introduced a selective licensing scheme covering part of the borough.

Whilst Bexley Council do not operate an additional licensing scheme, there is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies borough wide.

We will try to 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. Selective licence

The selective licensing scheme came into force on 1 October 2018 and is expected to continue for five years.

You will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single person, couple or single household and is in Thamesmead North, Abbey Wood / Lower Belvedere, Erith and Manor Road areas. The scheme also applies to HMOs in that area that are not already licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

If you rent a property to a single household in other parts of the borough, the selective licensing scheme does not apply.

You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the orange ‘More Information’ box on the top right on this page. To check if your property falls within the selective licensing area, you can use the address search tool on the council’s website, available here

How much does a licence cost?

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

Mandatory HMO licence

The council recently restructured their HMO licensing fees, so they are not directly comparable to the old rates.

For new applications, the council charge a base fee of £265 plus £145 per letting whereas the previous rate was £200 per unit of accommodation. So, an HMO with five separate single person lettings / bedrooms costs £990, against the old rate of £1,000 – a slight reduction! The fee is paid in two installments.

The council have said they will offer a £50 discount for accredited landlords, which is a step in the right direction, although it would be nice to see a bigger discount.

Selective licence

The council charge a fixed fee of £690 per property, although the fee is being reduced to £371 per property during the early bird discount period that runs until 31 December 2018. The fee is paid in two installments.

The council have said they will offer a £50 discount for accredited landlords.

The fees we have listed are correct as of October 2018, although they 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?

A new online application system has been introduced to coincide with the rollout of their selective licensing scheme. The new system can be used to apply for both selective and mandatory HMO licences and you can find out more information on the council’s website.

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 and all for a fixed fee. As part of the service, we carry out an inspection of your property and provide expert advice on compliance. You can find out more about our licence application handling service here.

If you want more choice, you can also find other companies that offer a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here).

Are there any standards I need to comply with?

Yes, Bexley Council has recently updated their HMO standards that apply to all licensed HMOs.

To make your live easier, Bexley Council have given us a copy that you can download from this website – just click on the link in the orange ‘More Information’ box on the right hand side of this page. 

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 January 2016, Bexley Council told us they had licensed 22 HMOs, an increase of four over the previous 12 months.

In January 2017, we found there were 25 licensed HMOs listed on the council’s website and by July 2018, the number had increased to 38.

Bexley Council keeps a public register of all licensed HMOs that is regularly updated and can be viewed on the council’s website.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In January 2016, Bexley Council told us that they think there could be about 200 licensable HMOs in the borough, and so it seems they have only found and licensed about 20% of the properties so far.

The council have also told us they think there are about 2,450 properties that will need to be licensed under the selective licensing scheme.

Any landlords of licensable properties should apply now to avoid facing the consequences on 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. We can help you! (find out more). 

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

Bexley Council told us they did not take any housing prosecutions over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016, which puts them at the bottom of the housing prosecution league table when compared to other London Boroughs.

The Council did not obtain any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the five years from April 2011 to March 2016. This is based on data published by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. 

For 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 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 294 accredited landlords in Bexley, which was the 4th lowest out of all London boroughs.

By January 2018, that figure had increased to 309, although they have dropped to the 3rd lowest 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?

A new licensing scheme has recently been introduced.

From 24 October 2016 to 24 January 2017, Bexley Council consulted on plans to introduce borough wide additional licensing for all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and selective licensing for all other rented accommodation in the DA8 and SE28 (Erith and Thamesmead) areas.

After reflecting on the feedback, the council fine-tuned their proposals and consulted again from 20 November 2017 to 31 January 2018. That proposal was for borough wide additional licensing plus selective licensing in four areas: Thamesmead North, Abbey Wood / Lower Belvedere, Erith and Manor Road.

Following the government’s decision to widen the mandatory HMO licensing scheme criteria, the council decided to drop plans for additional licensing and instead concentrate on selective licensing in these four areas. The scheme started on 1 October 2018.

There is clearly a lot happening in Bexley 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 smaller HMOs, the rules are a bit more complicated. HMOs occupied by between three and six people fall into planning use class C4 whereas single-family properties fall into planning use class C3.

On 16 September 2016, Bexley Council made a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction that removes the permitted development rights to change a property from a single-family house (use class C3) to an HMO occupied by up to six people (use class C4) without planning permission.

Bexley Council consulted on the HMO Article 4 Direction from 23 September to 4 November 2016.

The Article 4 Direction applies borough-wide and came into force on 24 September 2017. So from that date, even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

You can download a copy of the Article 4 Direction from the ‘More Information’ box on the right of this page.

You can find out more information on the council’s website. When you click on the link, scroll down the page and click on ‘Article 4 Directions’. 

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: 

Private Sector Team
Bexley Council
Civic Offices
2 Watling Street
Bexleyheath
Kent DA6 7AT

Email:  rentitright@bexley.gov.uk
Tel:       020 3045 3456
Website: www.bexley.gov.uk

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No additional licensing in Bexley but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide. A selective licensing scheme started on 1 October 2018.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 3045 3456
Email: rentitright@bexley.gov.uk
Weblink: Bexley property licensing

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