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. 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 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?

You do not need a licence if you rent your property to a single family as Greenwich Council do not operate a selective licensing scheme. However, if you rent out a flat in a converted building, you should check the additional licensing scheme below as some buildings containing flats do need to be licensed.

If you rent your property as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you will need a licence as Greenwich Council introduced an additional licensing scheme on 1 October 2017. There is also the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England and Wales.

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 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); and
  • 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 October 2018 bringing 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.

2. Additional licensing

The additional licensing came into force on 1 October 2017 and continues for five years until 30 September 2022, unless the council decide to revoke the scheme or implement a replacement scheme.

It applies to all HMOs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, so that includes all properties shared by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities – an estimated 7,000 properties. 

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?

A new fee structure has been introduced to coincide with the introduction of additional licensing. The same fee structure applies to mandatory HMO and additional licensing.

The standard application fee is £377 per habitable room in an HMO. This is a significant increase from the £147.11 per unit that was charged in 2017/18. The new fee is £1,885 for a three storey shared house with five lettings, up from £735.55. On this basis, it is the second highest fee in London, beaten only by neighbouring Lewisham Council.

Fortunately, the council are offering generous fee discounts during the early bird discount period. Until 18 March 2018, the fee is being reduced to £145 per unit, and a further reduction to £116 per unit for accredited landlords.

After 18 March 2018, accredited landlords will still receive a discount, which we think is a good idea.

The fees are correct as of February 2018 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?

A new online application process has been implemented to coincide with the introduction of the additional licensing scheme. You will need to visit the council’s website and scroll down to the ‘How to apply’ section.

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. 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, Greenwich Council have published some 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 2017 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 for us to point out that the government are looking to introduce new minimum bedroom sizes for HMOs – 6.51m2 for one person and 10.22m2 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?

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.

We expect this number to increase rapidly following the introduction additional licensing.

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?

With the additional licensing scheme now in force, the council think about 7,000 properties need to be licensed - that’s a huge number and will create a massive workload for the council. 

How many landlords apply and how quickly licence applications are processed is something we will be monitoring with much interest. 

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.

From April 2017 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 get your property licensed! (find out more

Does the Council take much housing enforcement action?

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

Greenwich Council have not obtained 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 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 243 accredited landlords in Greenwich, which is the lowest number out of all London boroughs. It seems they need to do more to promote the scheme.

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?

In February 2016, Greenwich Council told us they were investigating the evidence to support the introduction of further licensing of the private rented sector. 

From 29 November 2016 to 24 February 2017, Greenwich Council carried out a public consultation on proposals to extend licensing to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the borough. 

On 19 April 2017, the Council’s Cabinet meeting approved plans for a borough wide additional licensing scheme which came into force on 1 October 2017 (read here – agenda item 8

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 HMO Article 4 Direction that will apply borough wide.

When the Direction comes into force, planning permission will be required to change any property from a single-family home (C3) to an HMO with up to six occupants (class C4). So even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

The Direction is expected to come into force on 27 September 2018.  The changes are not retrospective and so until that date, properties can still be converted under permitted development rules. 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 8157

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At a Glance

Licence Overview

No selective licensing in Greenwich but the mandatory HMO licensing scheme applies borough wide.

An additional licensing scheme started on 1 October 2017.

More Information

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