If you are a landlord in Lewisham with a house in multiple occupation (HMO) or if you’re considering a HMO conversion, it is crucial to understand the licencing requirements that apply to your property. In Lewisham, two licencing schemes exist to regulate HMOs, these are the National Mandatory Scheme and the Lewisham Additional Scheme. It is important to note that failure to comply with these regulations can result in serious consequences.
As a responsible landlord, it is your duty to ensure that your HMO property meets the required standards and is properly licenced. This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of HMO licencing in Lewisham and what you need to do to comply with the regulations. With the proper guidance, you can ensure that your property is fully licenced and operating within the law.
HMO Licencing in Lewisham
National Mandatory HMO Licencing Scheme
This scheme is mandatory by law for all HMOs that:
- Have five or more people living in more than one household
- Share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets, and cooking facilities
If your HMO in Lewisham meets these criteria, you’ll need a National Mandatory Licence, which is valid for five years.
Lewisham Additional HMO Licencing Scheme
This scheme applies to HMOs that are not captured by the National Mandatory Scheme. The Lewisham Additional Scheme came into force on April 5, 2022 and applies to:
- Properties with three or four people who are not part of the same household and share kitchen, toilet, and/or bathroom facilities.
- Properties in purpose-built blocks of flats with three or more people who are not part of the same household and share kitchen and/or bathroom facilities.
- Lodger arrangements with more than two tenants sharing with their landlord and their landlord’s household.
This scheme does not apply to:
- Properties occupied by two sharers.
- Family homes.
Read more information about HMO Licences.
Minimum Standards for Licensable HMOs in Lewisham
Lewisham Council have a set of minimum standards that must be met in all licenced Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
The kitchen must be located within two floors of any bedroom, be directly accessible from communal areas, have adequate size and layout for safe food preparation, have clean and waterproof surfaces, proper ventilation, and functioning equipment.
Shared Use Sinks
A sink and drainer must be provided for every six occupants, have smooth and waterproof surfaces, have a stable base, and have an adequate supply of cold and hot water.
Each private sink must have smooth and waterproof surfaces, an adequate supply of cold and hot water, and be properly connected to the mains drainage system.
A full-sized cooker with four hobs and an oven must be provided for every five occupants, with consideration given to the use of a microwave with built-in oven for additional occupants.
Shared Electrical Sockets
In the shared food preparation area, there must be two double electrical sockets and one additional socket for each major appliance (e.g. cooker, refrigerator, freezer, washing machine). The sockets must be at worktop level and in a safe position.
For every five occupants or part thereof within the property, there must be a securely fixed worktop of smooth, waterproof material. The worktop must be at least 1500mm X 600mm, excluding any area covered by a major appliance.
There must be a dry goods storage cupboard of minimum capacity 0.15m3 (500 x 600 x 500mm) per occupant. The storage cupboard must be finished internally and externally with smooth and waterproof surfaces. The space in any cupboard below a sink will not be considered acceptable for this purpose. The storage cupboard can be in the shared kitchen or in each unit of accommodation.
For every five occupants or part thereof within the property, there must be a refrigerator with a freezer compartment or a separate freezer.
There must be appropriate facilities for storing rubbish generated by the property. The property must comply with the local authority’s scheme for storage and disposal of domestic refuse pending collection.
Bathroom and Toilet Facilities
All bathroom and toilet facilities should be located in enclosed rooms of an adequate size and layout, within two floors of any bedroom or unit of accommodation, and directly accessible from the communal areas unless provided as en-suite facilities. All bathroom and toilet facilities must be hygienically designed and constructed, heated, lighted, and ventilated. All baths, showers, toilets, and wash hand basins must be fit for the purpose and supplied with hot and cold water.
Shared Toilets, Baths, and Showers
For every five occupants or part thereof within the property, there must be at least one fixed bath or shower and one toilet separate from the bathroom. There must be a wash hand basin in each bathroom and compartment containing a toilet.
Private Toilets, Baths, and Showers
The living unit must have a fixed bath, shower, and toilet with a wash basin within the unit or nearby. The room should have an unobstructed area of 450mm in diameter.
All units must have adequate heating that can maintain a temperature of 21°C when it’s -1°C outside. The heating must be safe, efficient, affordable, and under the control of the occupant.
Fire Precautions and Safety
A Fire Risk Assessment is required by the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005. Portable appliances must be maintained in a safe condition, and a PAT test must be carried out every 12 months.
The electrical installation must be safe and in proper working order, with a full electrical safety inspection every 5 years and a certificate obtained.
If gas is supplied, a gas safety certificate must be submitted annually and show that all gas appliances have been serviced and safety checked in the past 12 months.
Bedrooms should be of sufficient size for living, sleeping, food storage, and preparation, except where there is a shared kitchen. Minimum sizes are specified for different types of rooms.
The licence holder must take reasonable steps to proof the property from rats and mice, and take steps to eradicate pests if there is an infestation.
Implementation of These Regulations
Upon receipt of a licencing application, a team from Lewisham Council will conduct a thorough examination of the property to verify that it meets these standards. If any discrepancies are found, the property owner will be informed and must take action to address them.
It is important to keep in mind that the standards may be adjusted by the Council’s Licencing Officer, based on the specific circumstances of each property. Even if a property meets the standards, further works may still be required to maintain the safety and comfort of its occupants.
To ensure the consistency of these standards, Lewisham Council will conduct a full inspection of the property within five years of the licence being granted. The inspection will be conducted using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) and will determine if additional work is needed to bring the property to a reasonable standard.
Before you Apply for your Lewisham HMO Licence
Notifying Relevant Parties
Before you apply for a licence for your House in Multiple Occupation, it is important to inform certain individuals and organisations about your application. This section outlines who you should notify and what information you should provide to them.
Who to Notify:
- Property Owner (if not you)
- Mortgage Provider
- Tenants or Long Leaseholders of the Property
- Proposed Licence Holder (if not you)
- Proposed Managing Agent (if not you)
- Anyone Bound by Conditions in a Licence
After You Submit Your Application
Lewisham Council will review your application carefully and make a decision. If they decide to grant a licence, they will issue a draft HMO licence along with a notice of their intention to grant a licence.
The Council will also carry out a property inspection, and they will need you to provide them with the following certificates within 28 days of submitting your application:
- PAT (Portable Electrical Appliance Test) certificate, signed and dated by a certified electrician
- Emergency Lighting System certificate, signed and dated by a certified electrician
- Electrical Inspection certificate, signed and dated by a certified electrician
- Fire Detection Warning System certificate, signed and dated by a certified electrician
- Gas Safety certificate, signed and dated by a certified electrician
- Plans of the premises.
Finalising Your Licence
Lewisham Council will issue the full HMO licence 28 days after you have submitted and paid for the application, as long as all the necessary certificates have been provided.
Disagreeing with Lewisham Council’s Decision
If you disagree with any decision Lewisham Council makes, you have the right to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber – Residential Property). We have had to do this before, and we won.
Lewisham Council Inspection of HMOs
Safety inspections are conducted by Lewisham Council on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) to ensure they meet safety standards. If conditions are not up to standard, the landlord or owner must improve them.
Entering Properties for Inspections
The Council will usually provide 24 hours notice before entering a property for inspection.
However, they may enter a premise without notice if it considers that an offence has been committed under sections 72 or 95 of the Housing Act 2004.
Responsibilities of HMO Managers
The manager of the HMO is responsible for maintaining the property in a clean, safe and orderly condition. This includes ensuring the water supply, drainage and general services, common areas, living accommodation, lighting, windows, ventilation, means of escape from fire, and outbuildings in common use are all in good repair and free from obstruction.
The manager must also take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of residents, display their contact information, and properly dispose of refuse.
Consequences of Not Complying with the Council
Not Getting a HMO Licence
If you are required to get a HMO licence but fail to do so, you could face serious consequences. The local council can take legal action against you, and you could face significant fines and penalties. Moreover, your tenants may also suffer, as the council may order you to make necessary improvements to the property, which can be costly.
Not Managing the HMO Following All Guidelines
If you are managing an HMO but not following all the HMO Management Rules, you could also face serious consequences. Your tenants may suffer, as they will not be living in a safe and secure environment. Additionally, you could face legal action and fines if the local council finds that you are not complying with the necessary regulations.
What is Section 72 and 95?
Section 72 and Section 95 refers to the rules surrounding the licencing of HMOs. It states that a person can commit an offence if they:
- Have control or are managing an HMO that needs to be licenced, but it is not licenced
- Are a licenced HMO manager, but allow someone to occupy the house who then causes the house to be occupied by more people than the licence allows
- Are a licenced HMO holder and fail to comply with the conditions of the licence
If you are a landlord or are managing a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), it is important that you have a HMO licence. Having a licence means that your property meets the necessary standards and HMO regulations set by the local council. It also protects your tenants and your investment.
Contact us today if you need a specialist HMO Letting Agent to manage or let your Lewisham HMO.