Designation of a Selective Licensing Scheme covering Belvedere ward

Start date Fri 19 Jan 2024, 5:00pm
End date Wed 3 Apr 2024, 11:59pm


Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004 (the Act) sets out the scheme for licensing private rented properties in a local housing authority area. Under section 80 of the Act a local housing authority can designate the whole or any part or parts of its area as subject to selective licensing. Where a selective licensing designation is made it applies to all privately rented property in the area, unless an exemption applies, such as being managed by a registered provider. 

A selective licensing designation may be made if the area to which it relates satisfies one of six conditions defined in the Housing Act 2004:

  • low housing demand (or is likely to become such an area)
  • a significant and persistent problem caused by antisocial behaviour
  • poor property conditions
  • high levels of migration
  • high level of deprivation
  • high levels of crime 

Since the 1 April 2015, a local housing authority needs to apply to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for confirmation of any scheme which would cover more than 20% of their geographical area or that would affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority area.   
If the local authority makes a Selective Licensing designation that covers:

  • 20% or less of its total geographical area
  • and, includes less than 20% of its privately rented properties 

The scheme will not need to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for approval, provided the authority has consulted for at least 10 weeks on the proposed designation. Larger Selective Licensing Schemes covering a wider designation or whole borough will require specific Government approval. The selective licensing scheme that Bexley is proposing will not need to be approved by the secretary of state.

Bexley’s current selective licensing scheme

Bexley’s selective licensing scheme commenced on the 1st October 2018 and ended on the 31st August 2023. The scheme was based around 11 Local Super Output Area (LSOA) in 4 distinct areas:

  • Thamesmead North
  • Abbey Wood/Lower Belvedere 
  • Erith
  • Manor Road

The intention of the scheme was to improve conditions for the most vulnerable tenants and provide further regulatory control of the private rented sector. The identified areas evidenced high levels of private renting coupled with high levels of antisocial behaviour (ASB) when compared to national and borough averages.

The scheme is a proactive approach that resolves the issue of relying entirely on complaints to flag issues; will improve conditions for the most vulnerable tenants and provide further regulatory control of the private rented sector. It is important that we ensure landlord compliance with the licensing scheme and that we take the necessary enforcement action to ensure properties that require a licence are licensed.

Over the duration of the scheme, there were 2,104 (86%) applications out of the estimated 2,451 licensable properties within the selective licensing areas. 

The Council investigates unlicensed properties through a combination of its own data and complaints received from tenants and neighbours. Where landlords fail to licence a property, the Council can either prosecute the landlord or issue a civil penalty notice (CPN). Income received from the payment of a Civil Penalty Notice can be retained by the Council provided that it is used to further our statutory functions in relation to enforcement activities covering the private rented sector. 23 Civil Penalty Notices have been issued for failure to licence properties in Bexley since the scheme began. 

The Council has inspected 310 properties within the selective licensing scheme. In total, 220 of these properties had at least Category 1 and 2 hazards that were removed by either formal or informal action.  

Part of the consultation is to review this scheme and see whether there should be changes or improvements made to the proposed scheme.

There is no evidence to support introducing a selective licensing scheme based on the current areas. Whilst the areas meet the threshold for Privately Rented Sector (PRS) they would not meet the criteria for property conditions or ASB. As a result, there is no justification for introducing a new scheme based on these areas.

Proposed new selective licensing scheme

Selective licensing schemes are time-limited to five years and Bexley’s current scheme ended on 31st August 2023. 

Prior to the scheme ending the Council appointed the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to model our current housing to analyse the PRS to help determine whether to continue with selective licensing in Bexley. The report can be found in Appendix 2.

Review of report produced by the BRE

Overview of the Private Rented Sector in Bexley

The national average for private renting is 19%, which comes from the most recent English House Condition Survey published in December 2022.

See English Housing Survey 2021 to 2022

To introduce a selective licensing scheme, the area must have a proportion of PRS that is significantly greater than the national average of 19%.

The table below ranks the wards with the highest number and percentage of private rented properties (PRS) within each Ward:

WardDwellings - all stockCount (Dwellings - private rented)Percentage (Dwellings - private rented)
Thamesmead East6,5241,73627%
Slade Green & Northend5,3121,38026%
Crook Log6,4741,25619%
Falconwood & Welling6,4581,18518%
St Mary's & St James4,66584518%
East Wickham6,28096615%
Northumberland Heath4,24660114%
Blackfen & Lamorbey6,59192414%
Blendon & Penhill6,26980313%
West Heath6,1385218%

There are nine wards in Bexley that are above the national PRS average and so could be considered for selective licensing. Crook Log is only just above 19%, so it cannot be argued that it is significantly above the national average and should not be considered. This means there are 8 wards that could be considered for selective licensing:

  • Belvedere
  • Bexleyheath
  • Crayford
  • Erith
  • Longlands
  • Slade Green & Northend
  • Sidcup
  • Thamesmead East

Aims of selective licensing in Bexley

The main aims for introducing a new selective licensing scheme would be to address antisocial behaviour (ASB) and Property Conditions (i.e., to reduce gas/mould/damp/fire hazards within the property) within the privately rented sector.

The next stage is to consider those Wards with the highest PRS against the two identified objectives for a Selective Licensing Regime.

Improvement of Property Conditions

The first objective of the scheme is to improve property conditions. 8% of PRS properties in Bexley have Category 1 hazards. To be included in a Selective Licensing Regime, the designated area should be either be the equal to or above this figure.  

The table below shows the total number and percentage of dwellings with hazards per Ward.

WardNumber of dwellings - Private rented propertiesHHSRS Category 1 Hazards
Belvedere2,334 (32%)181 (8%)
Erith1,603 (30%)97 (6%)
Sidcup2,110 (29%)176 (8%)
Thamesmead East1,736 (27%)74 (4%)
Slade Green & Northend1,380 (26%)82 (6%)
Crayford1,403 (20%)108 (8%)
Longlands879 (20%)72 (8%)
Bexleyheath1,291 (20%)105 (8%)

Erith (6%), Slade Green and Northend (6%) and Thamesmead East (4%) are all below this figure and so should not be considered for selective licensing as those areas are not suffering with poor property conditions and do not meet the statutory requirement.

This selection filter leaves Belvedere, Sidcup, Crayford, Longlands and Bexleyheath as the remaining possible Wards for potential designation.

Antisocial Behaviour (ASB)

The second objective of the scheme is to improve ASB in the affected areas. The evidence (source - Met Police data) does not show Sidcup and Longlands Wards having disproportionate ASB compared to other areas. Belvedere, Bexleyheath and Crayford are amongst the wards most affected by ASB.

WardNumber of ASB incidents - 2020Number of ASB incidents - 2021Number of ASB incidents - 2022
Blackfen & Lamorbey382273176
Blendon & Penhill31719673
Crook Log491284137
East Wickham456259153
Falconwood & Welling467295152
Northumberland Heath359219138
Slade Green & Northend409297250
St Mary's & St James326254121
Thamesmead East646521247
West Heath223160144

Incidences of ASB by ward, 2020, 2021 and 2022. (Source -

However, when reviewing the ASB at “Lower Super Output Area” level (this being a Census construction for the purposes of sub-dividing areas), the data highlights that the highest area within Crayford and Bexleyheath are the town centres (with their high proportions of late night venues and drinking establishments). The ASB in the town centres is likely due to people travelling to those areas and not due to people living directly within the areas. When looking at the remaining areas of both of those Wards, the ASB is significantly lower.  It is therefore unlikely that the elevated ASB in those Wards are a result of the PRS housing, so introducing a licensing scheme in those areas will have limited impact on addressing ASB. On the other hand, Belvedere Ward shows elevated ASB across of the Ward as a whole.

Proposal to licence Belvedere Ward

Having reviewed the data the proposal is to designate a new selective licensing scheme covering the whole Belvedere ward. A map showing the proposed selective licensing area is shown on the next page.

Possible options for future Licensing Schemes

Option 1 - Licence just the Belvedere Ward

This is the councils preferred option. Belvedere Ward has the highest amount and percentage of PRS, the highest amount of Category 1 hazards and has elevated levels of antisocial behaviour spread throughout the Ward. Introducing a Selective Licensing scheme in Belvedere will address both of these issues.


  • the evidence, by some distance, strongly supports designating Belvedere Ward. Any other geographical selection, would carry an elevated risk of a successful Judicial Review by comparison
  • the Regime will be focussed on the Ward where the Regime can have most impact both in terms of hazards within the properties and antisocial behaviour
  • increases the enforcement powers available to the council to deal with rogue landlords
  • a single geographically contiguous area is considerably easier to communicate to residents, landlords and tenants. This should make awareness and compliance easier to achieve


  • Council will only be licensing a single Ward in the Borough
  • increased regulatory costs to landlords

Option 2 - Reconsider the Geographical extent of the Selective Licensing Scheme

The previous licensing scheme was based around 13 LSOAs in 4 distinct areas. The areas chosen all had the highest proportion of PRS and antisocial behaviour (as per the evidence in 2017/18). Whilst it was not ideal to have four separate areas in terms of awareness for tenants and landlords, those areas were grouped relatively close together in the north of the Borough.  

One option could be to seek to designate not a Ward level but individual LSOAs. However, the current evidence would not lead to similarly tight grouping as per the current scheme.

The map below shows the LSOA areas with the highest PRS. The current Selective Licensing areas are marked in green.

*The below image of a map showing the LSOA areas with the highest PRS is not suitable for users of assistive technology (Screen reader) and does not allow users to zoom in without degrading visual quality. If you would like to understand any details about this map, please email

The map showing the LSOA areas with the highest PRS

If Bexley were to base the licensing areas on LSOA the map above gives a good illustration of the likely areas covered by selective licensing. There may be a small cluster in the Sidcup area, then areas spread throughout the middle and North of the Borough that are not linked together.

Experience shows that most people do not understand what a LSOA is. Residents, landlords and tenants would question why the scheme starts and ends in apparently arbitrary places. In the view of officers, it would not aid awareness of the scheme, which would have implications for compliance (and income). On other hand, Ward-level designation is a comparatively well-understood geographical area.

A scheme with very small areas dotted around the Borough would be difficult to communicate with residents, landlords, members and agents and lead to confusion about the areas covered and not covered and increase non-compliance amongst landlords and agents as they are unsure if properties are covered. There would be additional administrative work processing and issuing refunds for applications for properties that erroneously apply but are in fact outside the scheme. It is also anticipated that such a scheme’s costs would increase as additional money would need to be spent marketing and promoting the scheme to assist people in understanding the areas covered.  

Additional work will also need to be undertaken to identify the areas to licence which will cause a delay in introducing a new selective licensing scheme.


  • there may be the potential to maximise the areas covered by selective licensing


  • there will be a delay in selective licensing starting in Bexley
  • there is a greater risk of a judicial review as compared to option 1, as the evidence is not as clear-cut
  • counsel has advised Bexley that there is unlikely to be further evidence that we could obtain over and above that already produced to us
  • a scheme based on LSOA (Lower Layer Super Output Area) will result in lots of small areas and people will not understand what areas are covered. There is increased non-compliance as landlords are unsure of the areas covered. There will be an increase in administration costs and implications for income versus costs

Option 3 - Do not designate a new Selective Licensing Scheme

The council’s selective licensing scheme ended on the 31 August 2023.

The council would lose enforcement powers to deal with properties in poor conditions. Currently there are conditions attached to licences that require landlords to become accredited which helps to train landlords on their legal responsibilities.

Having a selective licensing scheme, enables the council to do proactive visits to properties and identify hazards and issues within a property before they cause harm or problems. The team would only be able to deal with reactive complaints otherwise. This would mean that officers would only respond to complaints about poor housing conditions received by tenants living in private sector property or from people living in a neighbouring property who are affected by antisocial behaviour from privately rented property.

The problem with this reactive approach is that only the more empowered tenants come forward to complain about their housing conditions. People who are privately renting in the lower end of the private rented sector are more likely to be living in poor conditions and are the least likely group to make a complaint. Continuing to provide a reactive service is therefore not going to improve those properties in the poorest condition.

This option may also cause concern as it may appear that the council is not serious in dealing with rogue landlords or improving conditions within the privately rented sector.

Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 requires all local authorities in England and Wales to license properties that are occupied by five or more persons who form two or more households and contain shared facilities. A mandatory HMO licence will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO along with specific licence conditions that the landlord must comply with. The licences are valid for five years. Currently, there are over 170 HMOs licensed and a further 30 licence applications are being processing.

Licensing just Mandatory HMOs isn’t wide enough to provide the level of control Bexley needs to improve housing conditions across the PRS.


  • less regulatory costs to landlords


  • council loses legal powers to deal with rogue landlords 
  • limit the works the council can do to identify properties in poor condition
  • there may be objections from members and residents

Links to Bexley’s Strategic Aims

Bexley’s Strategic Aims

Bexley Housing Strategy 2020 - 2025

The Council's current selective licensing scheme applies in four defined areas in the North of the Borough. The intention is to improve conditions for the most vulnerable tenants and provide further regulatory control of the private rented sector.

The main aims for introducing a new selective licensing scheme in the Borough are to address antisocial behaviour and Property Conditions (i.e., to reduce gas/mould/damp/fire hazards within the property) within the privately rented sector.

London Housing Strategy (Published May 2018)

The Mayor wants a better deal to improve life for London’s two million private renters.

Almost a quarter of privately rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes standard, and councils struggle to enforce minimum standards. The Mayor wants councils to have the tools and resources they need so that private renters can expect consistently decent standards.

He wants better regulation through property licensing and landlord registration. The new system would be light touch for good landlords, with resources focused on pursuing those who behave unlawfully. As a first step to help improve standards, he will ‘name and shame’ rogue landlords and letting agents. He will also support councils to run well-designed property licensing schemes, and to more closely share information and coordinate their actions.

The continuation of a selective licensing scheme  in Bexley supports the Mayor of London’s priorities and aims to tackle sub-standard and poorly managed private rented sector properties.

Modern Slavery and Exploitation, Bexley Strategy 2023 to 2028

The London Borough of Bexley is committed to creating and working in partnership with local organisations and institutions to address the four P’s:

  • Pursue: prosecute and disrupt individuals and groups responsible for modern slavery 
  • Prevent: prevent people from engaging in modern slavery
  • Protect: strengthen safeguards against modern slavery by protecting vulnerable people from exploitation
  • Prepare: reduce the harm caused by modern slavery through improved victim identification and enforcement support

People who are at risk of losing their home or forced to take shelter in unsafe accommodation can become a target to criminals who can offer them a place to live as a means of coercion.

When the council carries out inspections of privately rented properties, officers have in mind exploitation. The council will be carrying out proactive inspections of properties rather than just visiting properties as a result of complaints. This may help to identify victims of modern slavery.   

Housing Standards Enforcement Policy

The Council wants to work with responsible landlords and homeowners to help them to reduce antisocial behaviour and raise housing standards. However, where appropriate and necessary, the Council will instigate appropriate enforcement action against landlords and homeowners who fail to comply with their legal requirements.

Selective licensing gives the council additional enforcement powers to target rogue landlords. The scheme requires landlords to becomes accredited which will ensure they have a good understanding of the housing standards and management issues that should be met in privately rented accommodation.

Bexley Community Safety Partnership Strategy 2022 - 2025

A stated aim of the Bexley Community Safety Partnership Strategy is to keep people safe by reducing crime and disorder, anti-social behaviour, reoffending and combating substance misuse.

To deliver this it has a plan which sets out its priorities one of which is to develop a dynamic approach to tackle identified ASB in our communities. The Council’s proposal to continue with a selective licensing scheme in the borough links into and directly supports the achievement of this priority. PRS properties in the areas where selective licensing is proposed demonstrate a high incidence of ASB not only compared to the borough average but also to other privately rented property in the borough. Tackling this issue through the requirements imposed by the licensing scheme will require landlords to effectively manage and deal with ASB and to become accredited so they have the knowledge and support to do this.

Empty Property Strategy

The Council is committed to helping the owners of empty properties bring them back in to use.

Officers work with owners of both short and long-term empty properties. In relation to short-term empties advice and support is given to encourage and help owners rent out the property. Property that has been empty longer term is sometimes more problematic because it could be an eye sore or attracting ASB. Owners are supported in considering all options to bring the property back into use and where this fails enforcement powers are used by the Council.

The proposed selective licensing scheme complements and works alongside the empty property strategy in reducing ASB and improving housing conditions in the borough. For those empty properties where property licensing will apply when the property is brought back into use, it will provide a clear framework for landlords to follow to ensure those properties are effectively managed, provide good quality accommodation and do not contribute to ASB in the borough.

How the scheme will operate and requirements

Whilst the selective licensing scheme is in force:

  • landlords who rent out property within the areas designated for selective licensing are required to obtain a licence from the Council for each of their properties (unless an exemption applies)
  • landlords and managers must be ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence
  • landlords and managers must comply with the conditions attached to a licence

The selective licence application form will be an online form see Appendix 7 - guide to completing online application form.

An address lookup will be available on the Council’s Rent it Right web page so specific addresses can be identified.

Licence Fees

Sections 87(7) of the Housing Act 2004 provide for the fixing of selective licensing fees. In summary, they say that local authorities consider all costs incurred when carrying out their functions in relation to selective licensing. The power to charge for fees for selective licensing is set out in section 87(3) of the HA 2004. Those powers to charge allow the Council to require a licensing application to be accompanied by a fee.

The administration of the scheme is such that it is intended to be self-financing over the five-year period. Selective licence schemes tend to be front-loaded as councils receive most of their income in the first years of the scheme, then this drops off as they will have licenced most of the properties within the scheme. Benchmarking with other Councils suggests Councils receive 50% of the total licence applications in the first year of the scheme. The income would then normally be carried forward into future years as there is a reduction in the number of applications and this helps to make up the shortfall. The fees are reviewed annually and adjusted to ensure that the scheme’s costs are balanced given that it is unlawful for the Council to inadvertently make a profit on the fees. 

The costings of the scheme are set out in Appendix 4.

Two-stage payment

It is proposed that the cost of the licence will comprise an initial fee of £340 for processing the licence application, which is non-refundable.   
Successful applications will attract a further fee payable before the grant of a licence, which covers a contribution towards the costs of operating the respective licensing schemes. 

The costings of the scheme are set out in Appendix 4.

Licence fees

Licence fees table
Application cost*£340
Proposed enforcement fee£460
Total licence fee£800

Any properties that are licensed when the scheme ended in August 2023 will be eligible for a £300 discount.

Early bird licence fees
Application cost*£340
Proposed early bird enforcement fee£160
Total early bird fee£500

The council will continue to offer a £50 discount to licence holders who are accredited at the time of applying for a licence.  The list of organisations that the council will recognise as being accredited is set out in Appendix 6.

Following the designation of the schemes, the council must wait three months until the discretionary licensing schemes come into force. During this period the council will accept applications and begin processing them.

Licence conditions

Proposed conditions for the scheme can be found in Appendix 3. These conditions will be applied to all properties within the proposed area. The conditions are designed to ensure that licensed properties are responsibly and effectively managed in the proposed area.

The conditions are carried over from the previous scheme, they will be reviewed throughout the scheme and may be amended or updated if required by legislation.

It is proposed that we continue with the requirement that all Licence Holders and Managers (landlords) will be required to become accredited to ensure they understand and carry out their legal and moral obligations in managing property.

Landlords that are already accredited when they apply for a licence will be eligible for an additional discount of £50 for each property licence.

Exemptions to Selective Licensing

Various dwellings and lettings will be excluded from the licensing requirements of Part 3 of the 2004 Act. For example: 

  • where the property requires a Mandatory (HMO) licence
  • where the tenancies or licences are granted by registered social landlords and housing providers, including most housing associations and the Council. Also, Tenancies or Licences granted by police, fire brigade or health service body
  • where the tenancies and licences are subject to a prohibition order whose operation has not been suspended (section20/section21 Housing Act 2004)
  • commercial lettings
  • premises that are licensed for alcohol consumption (not off licences)
  • certain agricultural tenancies
  • university/college accommodation occupied by students and controlled by the university/college
  • there the owner or their relatives occupy a property on a long leasehold
  • holiday homes and lets
  • where a family member rents the property from you (evidence will need to be provided, for example, birth certificates or an affidavit)
  • long lease tenancies, where a landlord grants a lease for a term of over 21 years to a tenant
  • properties leased to a local authority on a private sector lease and used as temporary accommodation

Enforcement of the selective licensing scheme

The Council will proactively seek out landlords who fail to license property and will make full use of the range of available enforcement powers.

Failure to license a property is a criminal offence and the Council may take prosecution proceedings or impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000. On conviction, the Court may impose an unlimited fine.

If convicted of operating a property without a licence (or the council is satisfied that the offence has been committed even though the landlord has not been prosecuted), the council can reclaim any benefits paid when you were operating without a licence by applying for a Rent Repayment Order. Similarly, tenants (including former tenants) are also allowed to make an application for a Rent Repayment Order where landlords have been convicted of the offence or where a Rent Repayment Order has already been granted to the council on the same property.

In addition to failing to licence properties, under the Housing Act 2004, the following are offences and carry a fine of up to £5,000:

  • failure to comply with an Improvement Notice served under sections 11 and 12 of the act
  • failure to comply with a Prohibition Order made under sections 20 and 21 of the act
  • failure to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006
  • failure to comply with licence conditions etc...

Failure to licence a property will also have implications on evicting tenants from the property because, under section 75 of the Housing Act 2004, no section 21 notice served under the Housing Act 1988 may be given in relation to a shorthold tenancy for an unlicensed HMO. 

Timescales for next steps

The below sets out the timescales for designating a new selective licensing scheme.

Carry out consultation for selective licensing scheme (Consultation must run for a minimum of 10 weeks)

January to April 2024

Prepare designation report for Members to approve, this will need to be either a public cabinet or full council meeting

April to June 2024

New selective licensing scheme starts (must be at least three months after the scheme was designated by members)

Late summer/Autumn 2024

How to give your views

This consultation is now closed.