Royal Borough of Greenwich

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), the answer is a bit more complicated. Greenwich Council is introducing 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 2017 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 comes into force on 1 October 2017 and continues for five years, unless the Council decide to revoke the scheme early 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 6,500 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?

Greenwich Council licence fees vary according to the number of units of accommodation. They define this as a bedsit, bedroom in a shared house or hostel. In a flat in multiple occupation each bedroom counts as a separate unit. The fees we’ve listed are for 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018 (up 2% on the year before):

  • Properties with up to 10 units of accommodation: £147.11 per unit
  • Properties with more than 10 units of accommodation: £73.55 per unit.

So that would be £735.55 for a three storey shared house with five lettings.

For licence renewals and subsequent licence applications by the same landlord, Greenwich Council charge a reduced fee:

  • Properties with up to 10 units of accommodation: £99.83 per unit.
  • Properties with more than 10 units of accommodation: £68.30 per unit.

So on renewal, it would be £499.15 for a shared house with five lettings.

Following the decision to implement a borough wide additional licensing scheme, these application fees look set for a substantial increase. The new fee will be £377 per habitable room, representing an increase of around 261%! For the additional licensing scheme, there will be a 50% early bird discount and a further 10% discount for some accredited landlords.

You can view the fees in full on the Council’s website. When you click on the link, you will need to scroll down to the bottom on the page.

Can I apply for a licence online?

No you can’t, it’s a bit old fashioned! Instead, you can download the application form, complete it by hand and post it back to the Council. The form and accompanying guidance notes can be downloaded from the Council’s website, or you can download them from the ‘More Information’ box on the right on this page.

You also need to submit a floor plan of your property and there is helpful guidance about how to do this.

Alternatively, you can ask the Council to send you an application pack in the post. It will cut down on your printing costs as the form is 26 pages long.

We understand that a new online application system may be introduced ready for when the additional licensing scheme starts.

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. 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 – 6.52m2 for one person and 10.23m2 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, that number had risen to 64 and by September 2016, it had risen again to 80. 

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?

We don’t really know. In December 2014, Greenwich Council told us they had no formal estimate for the number of licensable HMOs operating without a licence. But they actively seek out unlicensed properties to take appropriate enforcement action and unlicensed properties continue to be uncovered on a regular basis.

When the additional licensing scheme starts in October 2017, the council think that about 6,500 properties will need to be licensed.

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 last five years (April 2011 to March 2016), so on average three prosecutions a year. 

According to date from the Residential Property Tribunal, Greenwich Council have not obtained any Rent Repayment Orders from the landlords of unlicensed HMOs over the last five years (April 2011 to March 2016). 

How many accredited landlords are there?

Under the London Rental Standard, there are three approved 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!

If you have not yet done so, please visit our London Rental Standard page and decide which scheme you want to join. Accredited landlords are entitled to various benefits, including discounted licensing fees in some boroughs.

Is the Council planning to introduce any new licensing schemes?

Yes, 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, an estimated 6,500 properties. More information about the consultation is available on the council’s website

On 19 April 2017, the Council’s Cabinet meeting approved plans for a borough wide additional licensing scheme which will come 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.

In February 2016, we checked with the Greenwich Council and found that there is currently no HMO Article 4 Direction in force.

This means that you do not need planning permission for a change of use from a single-family property (use class C3) to a small HMO shared by three to six unrelated residents (use class C4), although the situation could change in the future.

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, need a legionella or fire risk assessment, or are seeking a Gas Safe registered contractor to service the boiler, we’ve got it covered – and far more besides!

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?

To 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: residentialservices@royalgreenwich.gov.uk  
Tel:   020 8921 8157
Website: www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk

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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 starts on 1 October 2017.

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