London Borough of Southwark

If you need help understanding the property licensing rules in Southwark 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 four licensing schemes operating in Southwark. 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 1 March 2022.

The scheme applies to most HMOs in the London Borough of Southwark. It includes all properties shared by three or more people who are not all related and share facilities. You can view the public notice in the ‘More Information’ box on the right of this webpage.

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.

The council have simplified things slightly by restricting the licensing of section 257 HMOs to buildings that are three or more storeys in height, contain three or more self-contained flats and where both the building and self contained flats it contains are under the same ownership or considered by the council to be effectively under the same control.

You can view a copy of the additional licensing public notice in the ‘At a Glance’ box on the top right of this page.

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

3. Selective Licence

A new selective licensing scheme started on 1 March 2022.

You need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single household or two unrelated people and is located in the council wards of:

  • Champion Hill
  • Faraday
  • Goose Green
  • Newington
  • St Giles

A second selective licensing scheme started on 1 November 2023. Under that scheme, you will need a selective licence if your property (house or flat) is let out to a single household or two unrelated people and is located in the council wards of:

  • North Walworth
  • Nunhead & Queens Road
  • Old Kent Road
  • Peckham
  • Camberwell Green  
  • Chaucer  
  • Dulwich Hill 
  • Dulwich Wood 
  • London Bridge & West Bermondsey
  • Peckham Rye
  • Rotherhithe
  • Rye Lane
  • South Bermondsey
  • Surrey Docks

This adds another layer of complexity as most landlords won’t be familiar with the ward boundaries. You can check you ward using the search facility on the council’s website.

You can view a copy of the selective licensing public notice 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?

It depends on the type of licence application.

Mandatory HMO licence

The standard fee for a mandatory HMO licence is £1,500 plus an extra £100 for each bedroom above five.

Additional licence

The standard fee for an additional licence is £1,300.

Selective licence

The standard fee for a selective licence fee is £900.

Landlords who apply under the new selective licensing scheme between 1 October 2023 and 31 January 2024 will be eligible for a 30% early bird discount.

The council previously offered a 20% discount for landlords accredited through the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme. Whilst that has now ended, it has been replaced by a discount for landlords who sign up to the council’s Gold Standard Charter.

The fees we have listed are correct as of January 2024 but 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?

Southwark Council have an online application system for mandatory HMO, additional and selective licensing which you can access here.

We offer a licence application handling service in Southwark and you can find further information here. We prepare many licence applications in Southwark and can also prepare yours. 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 council’s HMO standards can be downloaded from the council’s website.

The standards relate to all HMOs covered by the mandatory and additional licensing schemes. It is important document that all Southwark HMO landlords need to be familiar with. 

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 April 2020, Southwark Council said they had licensed 3,646 properties and were processing a further 272 applications:

  • 518 licensed under the mandatory HMO licensing scheme;
  • 2,179 licensed under the additional licensing scheme; and
  • 948 licensed under the selective licensing scheme. 

Southwark Council keeps a public register of licensed properties that is regularly updated and can be searched. It can be viewed here.

Are there lots of unlicensed properties still out there?

In May 2019, Southwark Council told us they think there could be around 1,000 properties covered by the mandatory HMO licensing scheme.

In April 2020, the council estimated there were another 4,000 HMOs that required licensing under the additional scheme. We are unsure how many property they think need licensing under the new selective licensing schemes.

If you are one of those landlords operating without the correct licence, you should apply now to avoid the consequences.

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 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 560 accredited landlords in Southwark, which was above average when compared to all London boroughs.

January 2018: 620 accredited landlords
January 2019: 751 accredited landlords
January 2020: 830 accredited landlords
January 2021: 926 accredited landlords
January 2022: 1,090 accredited landlords
January 2023: 1,247 accredited landlords

By January 2024 there were 1,561 accredited landlords, which is slightly below 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?

A public consultation on proposed additional and selective licensing schemes took place from 15 February to 28 June 2021. You can find out more on the council’s website.

On 19 October 2021, the Cabinet approved a new borough wide additional licensing scheme plus selective licensing in five council wards (read here – agenda item 9). Both schemes came into force on 1 March 2022.

Meanwhile, Southwark Council asked the Secretary of State for permission to implement a second selective licensing scheme covering an extra 14 wards.  On 14 June 2023, the Secretary of State allowed the new scheme and it came into force on 1 November 2023.

There is clearly a lot happening at Southwark so we will monitor the situation closely and let you know about any further developments. 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 October 2014, Southwark Council implemented a 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. This Article 4 Direction only applies in Henshaw Street, Walworth SE17.

On 27 October 2016, Southwark Council introduced a second immediate HMO Article 4 Direction that applies in Bywater Place, Surrey Quays, London SE16.

It is quite unusual for local authorities to issue immediate HMO Article 4 Directions as it means in some circumstances they may have to pay compensation to developers if an application for planning permission is refused. It also shows how planning restrictions can change quite rapidly.

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: 

Private Sector Housing Enforcement and Licensing Team
Southwark Council
Queens Road
PO Box 70063
London SE15 2HP

Tel: 020 7525 3114

Latest News


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




At a Glance

Licence Overview

In Southwark, mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes apply borough wide and a selective licensing scheme covers part of the borough. A second selective licensing scheme started on 1 November 2023.

Contacting the Council

Tel: 020 7525 3114
Weblink: Southwark property licensing