It is mandatory to license certain larger and higher risk HMOs, and we can licence other HMOs at our discretion. A licence will be needed for each HMO you have.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the government will be extending the mandatory HMO licensing scheme in October 2018 to cover all properties occupied by five or more people making up two or more households. Read more about the changes and other new legislation.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Who needs a HMO licence?

You need to apply for an HMO licence if you own or manage a rented property with:

  • three or more storeys
  • let to five or more people
  • who form two or more households
  • some or all of the occupants share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities.

Storeys include occupied basements and attics, including those occupied by a resident landlord. Commercial premises on the ground or any upper floors are also included.

A household is defined as one of the following:

  • a single person living alone
  • a married couple
  • a couple in a relationship
  • a family group living together.

Children are counted the same way as adults.

In some cases a maisonette in a house or above commercial premises may need a licence if similarly occupied.

Not sure if you need an HMO licence? Use our HMO licence checker to find out.

Properties exempt from HMO licensing

Certain types of properties are not classed as HMOs for the purposes of the Housing Act 2004 and as a result are exempt from licensing:

  • a property occupied by two persons living as two households (two person flat shares)
  • buildings managed or controlled by public sector bodies (such as the police or the NHS) or an LHA (London Hostels Association) or a Registered Social Landlord
  • buildings occupied by students and the person in control is the educational body
  • buildings converted entirely into self-contained flats
  • buildings occupied by a resident landlord and his family with no more than two lodgers
  • buildings regulated under another Act, such as care homes, bail hostels
  • buildings entirely occupied by freeholders or long leaseholders.

HMOs not requiring a licence

If an HMO does not require a property licence, fire precaution works and the provision of extra amenities may still be required.

A landlord is responsible to ensure his or her property is safe for the occupants and must carry out a risk assessment. We will need to inspect the property to carry out a risk assessment using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to determine if any works are necessary.

The HHSRS is an enforcement tool used to identify matters which adversely affect the health and safety of occupiers in their home.

Not sure if you need an HMO licence? Use our HMO licence checker to find out.

2. How to apply and fees

To apply for a licence, you'll need to download the:

You should also download the summary guides for HMO standards to ensure your property meets the required standards.

Once we receive a completed HMO licence form and the fee, we will issue a licence within six to eight weeks if we are satisfied that the:

  • proposed licence holder is a fit and proper person. A fit and proper person is a person who has complied with housing and related legislation, is competent to manage the property and has no criminal convictions
  • property is reasonably suitable for occupation by the number of households or persons applied for
  • arrangements for managing the house are satisfactory.

The licence will be valid for a maximum of five years from the date of issue, although it can be issued for a shorter period, after which time it must be renewed.

A licence is needed for each of your properties. A licence is for the property and not for you as an individual. If you have properties outside of Lambeth you'll need to apply for a licence with the relevant council.

Licensing conditions

If a licence is issued, it will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO.

It will also require the landlord to:

  • have a valid current gas safety certificate, which is renewed annually (in accordance with the Gas Safety Regulations 1998)
  • ensure that all electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • install and properly maintain a fire detection system, doors and sited alarms throughout the property
  • provide each occupant with a written statement about terms and conditions (a tenancy agreement)
  • we will also impose a range of other conditions, if deemed warranted.

Failing to comply with licence conditions is subject to a fine of up to £5,000 per offence.

3. Temporary exemption notice (TEN)

A TEN suspends the requirement for a licence because the owner has notified us that she or he is currently taking steps to change the way the HMO is occupied. For example, seeking planning permission to convert the HMO into a single family dwelling or the property has been put up for sale.

Temporary exemption is what it says: temporary.

We can serve a temporary exemption notice (TEN) which will exempt the premises from licensing for three months.

In certain unusual circumstances it can extend this for a further three months. After that, there is no power to exempt the premises and the property must be licensed.

4. HMOs operating without a licence

It is your responsibility as the landlord or managing agent to apply to us for an HMO licence.

It is an offence to operate a licensable HMO without having obtained a licence. HMOs operating without a licence are now subject to an unlimited fine.

In addition, any Housing Benefit paid to you for an unlicensed HMO, can be repayable to Lambeth Council (subject to a Residential Property Tribunal order).

Also, in some circumstances, tenants can apply to a Residential Property Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order if they have paid rent to you (up to a limit of 12 months) if you have failed to obtain an HMO licence.

We will encourage landlords to apply for licensing through advice and persuasion, but where they fail to apply as a result of such informal action we will take legal proceedings with a view to prosecution in the courts.

Similarly any breach of conditions will initially be dealt with informally, but if the breach continues legal proceedings will be started.

Failing to comply with licence conditions is subject to a fine of up to £5,000 per offence.

5. HMO register

The Housing Act 2004 requires us to maintain a public register of all premises in the borough licensed as an HMO.

Not all HMOs require a licence, but if you think a property should have an HMO licence and it's not on this list, fill in the report an unlicensed property form.

6. Other fees for HMO services

The cost of an HMO licence can be found in the HMO licence fee table.

Advisory visits and inspections

We offer advisory visits to properties for prospective HMO use.

Requests for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) advisory visit includes:

  • an initial site visit and inspection of the property
  • consultation with the London Fire Brigade
  • two site visits to ensure that works are compliant with our and the Housing Act standards.

We also take requests for an:

  • immigration inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) including a report and letter to the relevant authorities
  • inspection of premises in or out of the borough, under the Housing Act, or other statue, and to provide a report or letter for legal, financial enquiries or for HMO licensing confirmation status.
Service Charges at 1 April 2018
HMO advisory visit £350 (cost deducted on licensing)
Immigration inspection £158
Inspection of premises Charge per officer time, per hour and per mile

Document requests

Service Charges at 1 April 2018
Drawing floor plans for a 3 storey HMO £250 to a maximum of £500 - each additional storey is £50
Request for replacement copies of documents, including letters, notices and licences £63
Copying of fiche documents Approximately £5 flat fee plus 10p a sheet for black and white and 20p for colour

Other HMO licensing fees

Service Charges at 1 April 2018
Change of licence holder A new licensing application will be required
Renewal of licence following expiry of reduced term (3 years) Subject to a new application fee
Revocation Notices No charge
Sale of licensed HMO HMO licensing fee not refundable
Temporary Exemption Notices No charge
Variation Notices Not subject to a charge unless additional rooms or units are occupied - HMO licensing fee would apply

7. Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about an HMO, contact the Property Standards and Enforcement Services: