London Borough of Lewisham

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Lewisham 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.

Licensing Requirements

Do I need a licence to rent out my property?

There are currently two property licensing schemes operating in Lewisham. We will 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. Additional licence

A new additional licensing scheme started on 5 April 2022 and continues for five years unless revoked by the council. 

The new scheme is more extensive than the previous scheme. It applies to most HMOs in the London Borough of Lewisham, including all properties shared by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities.

Lewisham Council have simplified things slightly by excluding all section 257 HMOs (certain buildings converted into flats) from the new licensing scheme.

You can view the public notice in the ‘More Information’ box on the right side of this page.

To find out more, you can read our free guide to additional licensing (here).

How much does a licence cost?

The standard application fee is £500 per household which includes a family or cohabiting couple. A licence for a property rented out to a group of five unrelated people will cost £2,500. We believe this is the second highest per-bedroom HMO licence application fee in the country, exceeded only by Lambeth.

There are discounts available including for registered charities and landlords accredited through the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme or another recognised scheme.

The fees we have listed are correct as of October 2023, although they could be subject to change in the future. The fees can be viewed in full on the council’s website.

How do I apply for a licence?

Lewisham Council have an online application system that can be accessed via the council’s website. To submit an application, you will need to set up a Lewisham Council account.

It is important to note the are two separate licence application processes. One for mandatory HMO licensing and one for additional licensing.

We offer a licence application handling service in Lewisham and you can find further information here. Simply complete the online enquiry form to get the process underway.

You can find other companies offering a licence application handling service in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here).

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, the Lewisham HMO standards can be viewed on 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 apply throughout England to HMOs licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme.

How many properties has the Council licensed?

In July 2022, there were 977 licensed HMOs in the public register, including 805 under the mandatory HMO licensing and 172 under the additional licensing schemes.

Lewisham Council keeps a public register of licensed HMOs that can be viewed on the council’s website.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

Yes, it seems like there might be quite a few. In May 2019, Lewisham Council told us they think there could be 1,250 properties that require licensing under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

Whereas the council thought 1,500 properties required licensing under their first additional licensing scheme, the council estimate that about 4,750 properties will need licensing under the new scheme.

This suggests there could be thousands of HMOs operating illegally without a licence.

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?

In London, most boroughs publish information about housing prosecutions and civil financial penalties on the Mayor of London’s ‘Rogue landlord and agent checker’. You can search the database by entering a property address, landlord / agent name or by selecting the relevant borough, 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 391 accredited landlords in Lewisham, which placed them just above the bottom third of all London boroughs.

January 2018: 692 accredited landlords
January 2019: 729 accredited landlords
January 2020: 808 accredited landlords
January 2021: 939 accredited landlords

January 2022: 1,179 accredited landlords

By January 2023, there were 1,301 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, although it has got a bit complicated, so let us try to explain.

From 28 May to 21 August 2019, the council consulted on plans to implement borough wide additional and selective licensing schemes. You can find out more information on the council’s website.

On 11 March 2020, the council approved plans for borough wide additional and selective licensing schemes and the Cabinet report can be read here

Following a delay caused by the pandemic, the council made a borough wide additional licensing scheme designation on 29 October 2021 and the scheme started on 5 April 2022.

Meanwhile, Lewisham Council consulted on new selective licensing proposals from from 20 October 2021 to 4 February 2022. Due to concerns expressed about the consultation process, they stopped the consultation early and launched a new selective licensing consultation from 21 January to 21 May 2022. The council is proposing three separate designations covering most of the borough, with only the Blackheath and Telegraph Hill wards excluded. You can find out more about the consultation on the council’s website

In March 2023, Lewisham Council announced they were seeking government approval to implement a large selective licensing scheme covering an estimated 20,000 private rented properties. We are waiting to hear whether the application is successful. 

There is clearly a lot going on at Lewisham so we will monitor the situation closely and keep you posted. For all the latest developments, 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 16 January 2019, the council’s Mayor and Cabinet approved plans to implement a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction in the council wards of Bellingham, Downham, Whitefoot and Grove Park. A public consultation took place from 7 March to 2 May 2019 and the HMO Article 4 Direction came into force on 7 March 2020.

From that date, planning permission is required to change a single-family home (use class C3) to an HMO with up to six occupants (use class C4) within the designated area. So even letting your property to three people who are not all related could require planning permission.

Meanwhile, on 6 July 2022, the council’s Mayor and Cabinet approved plans to implement a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction covering the rest of the borough. A public consultation took place from 30 September to 5 December 2022 although it was not well publicised and we only found out after it had ended. Subject to confirmation, we understand the HMO Article 4 Direction will come into force on 30 September 2023.

The changes are not retrospective and so properties converted from use class C3 to C4 under permitted development rules before an HMO Article 4 Direction comes into force are not affected. You can find out more information 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: 

Environmental Health Residential Team
Lewisham Council
Laurence House
1 Catford Road
London SE6 4RU

Email: pshe@lewisham.gov.uk
Tel: 020 8314 6420
Website: www.lewisham.gov.uk 

Latest News

Consultations

There are currently no licensing consultations we are aware of in the London Borough of Lewisham

Schemes

There are currently no new licensing schemes we are aware of that are being introduced in the London Borough of Lewisham

Events

Opinion

At a Glance

Licence Overview

In Lewisham, mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide. The council are seeking permission to implement a large selective licensing scheme.

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 8314 6420
Email: pshe@lewisham.gov.uk
Weblink: Lewisham HMO licensing