Southwark HMO Licence

A Guide to HMO Licencing Requirements
As the demand for affordable housing continues to increase, HMOs have become a popular option for both landlords and tenants alike. However, HMOs are subject to specific regulations and licensing requirements that must be met to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to Southwark HMO Licencing, including information on determining whether your property is considered an HMO, the fees involved in obtaining a licence, the validity of the licence, the responsibilities of the licence holder, the detailed licence conditions, and the process for applying for a licence.

Types of Property Licensing Schemes

Mandatory Licensing
Mandatory licencing applies to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) that are occupied by five or more persons, forming at least two separate households. Such properties must have shared amenities such as bathrooms, toilets, and cooking facilities.

Additional Licensing
Additional licensing applies to HMOs that are not covered by mandatory licencing, such as shared houses and smaller bedsit-type accommodations that are occupied by three or more people in two or more households.

Selective Licencing
All privately rented properties that fall outside of the mandatory or additional licensing schemes are subject to selective licensing. This licence is required only in the following wards: Newington, Champion Hill, Faraday, St Giles, and Goose Green.

Read more information about HMO Licences.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Is Your Property an HMO?
The legal definition of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a dwelling that is occupied by three or more people in two or more households. Read more about HMOs and households in our HMO Defined article.

You need a licence if your property falls under the mandatory scheme or the new Southwark additional licensing scheme.


In order to process your application for an HMO licence, you must pay the licence fee. The fee is calculated by the application form, and you must select the correct description of your property and the number of bedrooms available for letting on the application form.

Fees are paid in two instalments. The “Part A” fee is payable when you apply for a licence, and the “Part B” fee is payable when Southwark issues you with a full licence. If Southwark does not issue you with a full licence for any reason, you will not have to pay the “Part B” fee.

For a 5-bedroom HMO, the mandatory licence costs £1500, with an additional charge of £100 per extra room.

Validity of the HMO Licence

Licences are typically valid for five years. However, properties with evidence of poor management or other housing-related problems will only be given a licence for one or three years, depending on the severity of the issue.

HMO Licence Holder

The HMO Licence Holder is usually the person, people, or company who exercises practical control of the property, including the collection of rent, arranging repairs, and management. The owner or manager of the property can be the HMO Licence Holder.

Licences are non-transferrable, and the HMO Licence Holder must remain unchanged for the duration of the licence. If you need to change the HMO Licence Holder before the licence expires, the new HMO Licence Holder must apply for a new licence.

Fit and Proper Persons
The HMO Licence Holder must demonstrate that they are a “fit and proper” person.This will require making a statement regarding criminal offenses. In determining whether an applicant is “fit and proper,” the council must take into account any evidence found that the person applying for a licence has:

  • Committed any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, violence, drugs, and certain sexual offences
  • Practised unlawful discrimination on the ground of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, or disability in connection with any business
  • If the HMO Licence Holder has breached any provisions of housing or landlord and tenant law, they must also prove that adequate management and financial plans are established for every rented property. Failing to pass the fit and proper person test could lead to the refusal of a license application.

Non-UK Based HMO Licence Holders:
If you are a non-UK based HMO Licence Holder, your application for a property licence will only be considered if there is a managing agent in the UK who agrees to be bound by the licence’s conditions and obligations by signing a declaration to confirm this. If you need us to do this for you Contact us. Each application is assessed individually, and the council has the discretion to accept non-UK based HMO Licence Holders. Limited companies’ applications will only be accepted if they have a registered office in the UK.

Licence Conditions

Your licence will have a schedule of conditions attached to it, which must be complied with by the HMO Licence Holder or managing agent within the stated time period on the full licence. These conditions are:

1. Permitted Occupation
The HMO Licence Holder is responsible for ensuring that no room is occupied by more individuals than the number specified in the licence. The maximum number of people and households allowed per room will be detailed in the schedule of permitted occupation. If a new resident occupies the house or any part of the house, their occupation must not exceed the maximum permitted number of persons or households as stated in the schedule of permitted occupation.

Note that the maximum permitted number of persons is irrespective of age, unless specified. A table outlining the occupancy and maximum permitted persons per letting will be included in the licence conditions specific to the property.

2. General
The licence must be displayed in a communal area of the property and a copy of the conditions made available to all occupying tenants. The address provided by the HMO Licence Holder on their application form will be used for the proper service of any letter, notice, or document between the London Borough of Southwark Property Licensing Team and the HMO Licence Holder.

The HMO Licence Holder is responsible for ensuring that they collect and act upon any letter, notice, or document sent to that address regularly. The HMO Licence Holder must notify the Council of any managing agent employed in relation to the property within 14 days of employing them. Only the HMO Licence Holder or the named agent notified to the Council can collect rental monies from tenants at the property, and these monies can be passed onto any third parties if required.

The HMO Licence Holder must protect any deposit taken under an assured shorthold tenancy by placing it in an authorised tenancy deposit scheme and provide the tenant with the prescribed information about the scheme. The HMO Licence Holder must ensure compliance with the requirements of the scheme and the operation of Part 6 in Chapter 4, Housing Act 2004 within the statutory time limit (currently 30 days) and provide a copy of the prescribed information to the Authority within 21 days on demand.

If the HMO Licence Holder is not the manager of the property, they are responsible for ensuring that the manager complies with all the conditions of the licence.

Adequate natural light and ventilation are required for every habitable room within the property. An area of glazing equivalent to at least 10% of the internal floor space of each habitable room must be provided, along with an area of openable glazing (for ventilation) equivalent to at least 5% of the internal floor space of each habitable room.

If the HMO Licence Holder is in control of a property with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Rating of less than ‘E’, they must carry out the works detailed on the EPC for the property to improve its energy efficiency to achieve an EPC rating of ‘E’ or above within 12 months of the licence being issued or register a valid exemption on the national exemptions register within three months of the licence being issued. Lack of compliance will result in enforcement under The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 and The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

3. Gas Safety
If the property is supplied with gas, the HMO Licence Holder must have a valid Gas Safe gas safety certificate for the entire gas installation and all gas appliances. The certificate must demonstrate that all appliances have been serviced and safety-checked in the last 12 months, and any defects must be promptly rectified. The certificate must be available on request within seven days at any time.

The HMO Licence Holder must install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector in any room within the premises where a solid fuel appliance is installed. On demand, the HMO Licence Holder must provide a declaration to the authority about the condition and positioning of such alarms.

4. Electrical Safety
The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that all electrical installations in the house are in proper working order and safe for continued use. Only approved electrical contractors are allowed to inspect electrical installations or carry out remedial works, and any necessary remedial works must be undertaken within a reasonable time period.

The HMO Licence Holder must provide a written declaration or appropriate certification as to the safety of the electrical installation(s) within seven days of demand by the London Borough of Southwark. The HMO Licence Holder must also provide a copy of any inspection reports within seven days of inspection and inform the authority upon completion of any necessary works.

The HMO Licence Holder must have a valid Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) record for all electrical appliances provided in the property, available on request at any time. PAT tests should be carried out by a competent person every 12 months or as often as recommended for the type of appliance, and records must be kept for at least five years. Any necessary maintenance or repair work must be undertaken by a competent electrical engineer in accordance with Part P of the Building Regulations.

5. Furniture
The HMO Licence Holder must keep furniture provided by them in the house in a safe condition and provide a declaration to the authority on demand about the safety of such furniture. All upholstered furniture and mattresses provided by the HMO Licence Holder must comply with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 and bear the permanent labelling required by the regulations.

6. Fire Precautions
The manager of the HMO must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the general fire precautions required at the property. A qualified fire safety engineer should be consulted if necessary. The manager must supply a copy of the risk assessment to the London Borough of Southwark within 14 days of a written request. The LACORs Fire Guidance available on the website should be referred to for ensuring the correct fire precautions are installed at the property, appropriate to its size and occupation. A qualified fire safety engineer should be consulted for advice if necessary.

Fire precautions and equipment must be kept in proper working order. Appropriate records of maintenance, such as current certificates, must be kept and produced to the London Borough of Southwark on demand as evidence of such maintenance. Any defects noted on certification must be promptly rectified.

The HMO Licence Holder must provide a declaration to the authority, on demand, about the condition and positioning of any smoke alarms.

At the beginning of each tenancy, occupants must be given appropriate fire safety advice regarding the means of escape in case of fire and other fire precautions. The importance of keeping fire doors closed and keeping the escape route clear must be emphasised.

7. Tenancy Matters
The HMO Licence Holder must provide all occupants of the HMO with a written statement of the terms and conditions on which they occupy it, such as a tenancy or licence agreement. Copies of the written statement of terms must be provided to the Council within 14 days upon demand, along with details of the arrangements in place to deal with repair issues and emergency issues and a copy of this licence and its conditions.

The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that only they or the named agent (that the HMO Licence Holder has notified to the Council) create new tenancies or licences to occupy this property while this licence is in force.

The HMO Licence Holder must not knowingly allow any person who has previously applied for a property licence in respect of the property and has either (a) been found not to be a Fit and Proper person, or (b) been made subject to a Banning Order under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to have control or management of the property or to carry out or arrange any repair, improvement, or other building works at the property.

8. Waste Management
Within seven days of new occupants moving in, the HMO Licence Holder must provide written information about waste and recycling, including collection days, what can and cannot be recycled, how to dispose of bulky waste, and general waste guidance. A copy of this information must be kept for five years and provided to the Council upon request within 28 days.

The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that adequate facilities are provided for the disposal of refuse and recycling, including suitable receptacles for storage between collections to prevent bags or loose waste from being stored outside the property.

If the standard local authority waste collection schemes are insufficient, the HMO Licence Holder must arrange for private waste collections.

The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that the common parts, gardens, and yards are free from waste that could harbour pests, cause a nuisance, or be detrimental to local amenities, except for waste stored in appropriate receptacles. Waste, such as old furniture or bedding, must not be left outside the property or in its vicinity.

The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that old furniture, bedding, rubbish, or refuse from the property is not left outside or on private land.

Hazardous waste that the Council does not routinely collect must be disposed of safely and lawfully.

If occupants or their visitors do not use the waste disposal facilities provided or leave waste outside the property or in its vicinity, the HMO Licence Holder must issue a warning letter within seven days, advising them to remove the items immediately. A copy of the warning letter must be kept and provided to the Council upon request within 28 days.

Changes to the Property
The use, layout, or maximum occupancy level of the property must not be changed without the prior written consent of the Council.

11. Standards for Licensed HMOs
All licensed properties must comply with Southwark’s Standards for HMOs within 18 months of being granted the licence and throughout its duration. These standards include requirements such as defining what constitutes a person using a room for sleeping purposes, and any part of the floor area of a room with a ceiling height below 1.5 metres should not be included in calculating the room’s size. Please note that Southwark’s standards for room sizes are higher than the national minimum room size standards specified below.

In the context of ensuring the quality and safety of living conditions within Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), the Southwark Council has set forth clear and specific standards concerning room sizes and kitchen facilities. These standards are not only a reflection of a commitment to maintaining a decent standard of living but also cater to the diverse needs of HMO occupants.

Room Size Requirements

The HMO Licence Holder is tasked with a crucial responsibility to ensure that every room designated for sleeping is appropriately sized to not only comply with legal requirements but to also provide a comfortable living space for the occupants. Specifically, the standards stipulate that:

  • For a single occupant, the minimum floor area of a room used for sleeping must be at least 10 square meters.
  • In the case of two people sharing a room, the required minimum jumps to 14 square meters to comfortably accommodate both individuals.

These size requirements are fundamental in ensuring that each tenant has sufficient personal space, which is essential for both mental and physical well-being.

Enhanced Living Standards for Shared Living

For HMOs where the living arrangement is more communal, with occupants sharing more than just the basic amenities and engaging in a shared living experience (such as student accommodations or shared houses for employees from the same institution), the standards adjust to foster a cohesive living environment. In such cases:

  • A room for one person must have a minimum size of 8 square meters.
  • A room intended for two individuals must be at least 12 square meters.

This distinction acknowledges the dynamic nature of HMO living arrangements and the importance of communal spaces in enhancing the quality of life for those who live more collectively, sharing meals and leisure time in common areas like dining rooms and lounges.

Kitchen Facilities

The kitchen, often the heart of any home, is especially crucial in an HMO setting. It’s not just a place for cooking; it’s a communal hub. To this end, Southwark Council’s standards ensure that these spaces are not only adequately sized but also well-equipped to handle the needs of multiple occupants. The standards require that:

  • A kitchen serving up to 5 people must be a minimum of 5.5 square meters, with an additional square meter added for each person beyond the fifth.
  • For larger HMOs, the kitchen size must increase accordingly to 7.5 square meters for up to 6 occupants, 8.5 square meters for up to 7, and 9.5 square meters for up to 8 occupants.

These size requirements ensure that the kitchen can comfortably accommodate multiple users simultaneously, preventing overcrowding and facilitating a more harmonious shared living environment.

12. Access to Utility Metres
The HMO Licence Holder must ensure that their tenants can access and read the gas, electricity, and water metres for the property at reasonable times throughout the tenancy, and obtain a final reading at the end of the tenancy.

13. Flats in Multiple Occupation
The HMO Licence Holder of a Flat in Multiple Occupation (FMO) in a block of flats must provide their tenants with written information on the fire safety arrangements in place within the block, including evacuation procedures, fire assembly areas, fire drill arrangements, and fire warden or waking watch arrangements where applicable.

Non-compliance with any of the licence conditions may lead to fines of up to £5,000 or loss of the licence, or a penalty notice of up to £30,000. It’s important to note that compliance with Building Control or Fire Safety regulations does not imply compliance with the Housing Act 2004 and its licensing requirements. Any requirements specified in the licence do not preclude assessments or enforcement actions under the Housing Act 2004.

Applying for a Licence

Before applying for a licence, you will need to have a few details to hand, including the type of licence your property needs, room sizes and property facilities, details about the property structure and safety equipment, names and addresses of persons and organisations with an interest in the property, payment card details, and the HMO Licence Holder’s date of birth.

Documents Required
You will also need to provide floor plans, which can be a single-line drawing showing the basic layout of each floor, including room sizes in square metres. Additionally, if you are a member of an accreditation scheme, you will need to provide your landlord accreditation certificate.

Accreditation schemes are designed to promote and recognize good practice in the private rented sector. By becoming a member of an accreditation scheme, you can give your tenants the confidence that you are a responsible landlord.

Accreditation schemes should include an initial training session and a minimum amount of continuous professional development to remain a member. Some examples of available schemes include the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme (LLAS), the Private Rented Sector Accreditation Scheme (PRSAS), the National Landlords Association (NRLA), the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA), Safeagent, and the British Landlord Association (BLA).

Need a Southwark HMO Letting Agent, or considering a HMO conversion? Contact us today.

Carl Evans

Written By Carl Evans

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