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 and a third scheme starts on 1 July 2024. 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

An 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 ‘At a Glance’ box on the top right side of this page.

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

3. Selective licence

From 1 July 2024 you will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single household or two individual sharers and is in the council wards of:

Designation 1:  Brockley, Catford South, Lewisham Central, New Cross, Perry Vale and Rushey Green.

Designation 2: Crofton Park, Evelyn, Ladywell, Lee Green and Sydenham.

Designation 3: Bellingham, Downham, Forest Hill, Grove Park and Whitefoot.

To make matters more complicated, the scheme is based on council ward boundaries that existed pre-May 2022. To find out if your property is within the selective licensing area, you can use an interactive map on the council’s website.

You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the ‘At a Glance’ box on the top right of this page.

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

How much does a licence cost?

The application fee depends on the type of licence.

Mandatory HMO and additional licence

Lewisham Council charge a standard application fee of £500 per household which includes a family or cohabiting couple. A licence for a property rented out to a group of five unrelated people costs £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.

Selective licence

Lewisham Council charge a fixed fee of £640 per property which is split into two instalments – £160 payable when you apply and a further £480 when the licence is ready to be approved.

The council are offering a 20% early bird discount for all selective licence applications submitted by 20 August 2024. We understand there is also a discount being offered to accredited landlords.   

The fees we have listed are correct as of May 2024, although they could be subject to change in the future. Mandatory HMO and additional licensing fees can be viewed here and selective licensing fees can be viewed here.

How do I apply for a licence?

Lewisham Council have an online application system to submit mandatory HMO, additional and selective licence applications which you can access here.

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 Lewisham Council’s 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.

Lewisham Council think 4,750 properties need licensing under their additional licensing scheme and about 20,000 properties need licensing under their new selective licensing scheme.

If you are a landlord operating illegally without a licence, you should apply now to avoid 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?

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
January 2023: 1,301 accredited landlords

By January 2024, there were 1,468 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, Lewisham 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 proposed 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. On 30 November 2023 the Secretary of State approved the new scheme and it comes into for on 1 July 2024. You can view a copy of the scheme designation in the ‘At a Glance’ box on the top right of this page.

There is clearly a lot going on at Lewisham so we will monitor the situation closely. 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, Lewisham 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 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, Lewisham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet approved plans to implement a non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction covering the rest of the borough and the HMO Article 4 Direction came into force on 19 January 2024. 

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

Events

Opinion

At a Glance

Licence Overview

In Lewisham, mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide. A selective licensing scheme covering a large part of the borough starts on 1 July 2024 (more information).

Contacting the Council

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