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?

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 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.

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 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. 

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?

The same fee structure applies to mandatory HMO and additional licensing.

The standard application fee is £400 (was £388 in Sept 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 £2,000 for a shared house with five lettings. On this basis, it is the second highest per-bedroom fee in London, beaten only by neighbouring Lewisham Council.

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.

The fees are correct as of August 2020 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?

There is an online application system for mandatory HMO and additional licensing on the council’s website.

If you need assistance with your licence application, you can find companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here). Whilst we do handle some applications, we have limited capacity and specialise in more complex cases where we provide our clients with expert advice and assistance.

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.

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 - that’s a huge number and will create a massive workload for the council.

With only 900 properties licensed 18 months after the additional licensing scheme started, it suggests that either there are far fewer HMOs, or that over 90% of properties remain unlicensed.

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.

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 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 was the lowest number out of all London boroughs. 

By January 2018, there were 655 accredited landlords, by January 2019 there were 793 accredited landlords and by January 2020 there were 841 accredited landlords which is slightly above 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?

Yes, Greenwich Council started consulting on plans to implement a selective licensing scheme in part of the borough on 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 continues until 10 September 2020. You can find out more information on the council’s website.

The council already operates an additional licensing scheme. From 29 November 2016 to 24 February 2017, the council consulted 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. 

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

Email: hmo-licensing@royalgreenwich.gov.uk 
Tel:   020 8921 8157
Website: www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Greenwich News

Greenwich Events

Greenwich Comment

At a Glance

Licence Overview

No selective licensing in Greenwich but mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide.

The council is consulting on plans for a selective licensing scheme until 10 September 2020.

More Information

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8921 8157
Email:  hmo-licensing@royalgreenwich.gov.uk
Weblink: Greenwich HMO licensing

Water for Kids charity advert
Sign up to our London Property Licensing newsletter