Selective Licensing

A selective licensing designation may be made if the area to which it relates satisfies one or more of the following conditions.

The area is one experiencing:

  • low housing demand (or is likely to become such an area)

  • a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour

  • poor property conditions

  • high levels of migration

  • high level of deprivation

  • high levels of crime.

If more than 20 per cent of the total private rented properties, or 20 per cent of the geographical area is included in any proposal the decision is made by the Secretary of State.

Renewal of the Selective Licensing Scheme

Following on from the Future of the Selective Licensing Scheme consultation and online surveys, which took place towards the end of 2020, the council have decided to renew the Selective Licensing Scheme for another five years from the 1 October 2021.

Current private sector housing licences within the selective licensing areas of Weavers, Whitechapel, and Banglatown & Spitalfields areas will need to be renewed when they expire.

The Tower Hamlets Selective Scheme

Selective Licensing applies to all privately rented properties which are occupied by one family or a maximum of 2 households comprised of 2 occupiers in Whitechapel, Spitalfields & Banglatown and Weavers areas of the borough.

These areas are based on the pre-2014 wards and you can view our map to check if your property falls within the above areas using your postcode. 

The green area within the map is the selective licence area. If your property appears outside the green area it will not require a selective licence.

How to apply

Please read the guidance notes to ensure that you make your application successfully.


  • Gas safety certificate

  • Fire safety alarm system inspection and servicing report

  • Electrical Installation Conditions Report (EICR)

  • Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) certificate

  • Floor plans of the property showing the layout, rooms, measurements and fire safety precautions

  • Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements (ASTs)

You will also need the contact details, including full name, telephone number, postal and email address of the following  people/organisations. The definitions can be found in the glossary.

  • Proposed Licence Holder (if it is a company, they must be registered on Companies House). 
  • Freeholder
  • Lease Holder/s
  • Managers
  • Rent/collector receivers
  • Mortgage companies
  • Person responsible for repairs

Fit and proper person test

In deciding whether to grant a licence the council must be satisfied that the proposed licence holder ‘…is a fit and proper person to be the licence holder…’ and that ‘the proposed manager of the house is a fit and proper person to be the manager of the house…’

The licence may be revoked where the council no longer considers that the licence holder is a fit and proper person to be the licence holder… and where the council no longer considers that the management of the house is being carried on by persons who are not in each case fit and proper persons to be involved in its management.

This requirement is to ensure that those responsible for operating the licence and managing the property are of sufficient integrity and good character to be involved in the management of the particular residential property and as such they do not pose a risk to the welfare or safety of persons occupying the property.

For current license holders, please check your license expiry date first and apply for a renewal 3-4 weeks before your current license expires.

You need to submit a new application if the licence holder has changed.

Apply for a Selective Licence



There are exemptions to the requirement to be licensed and these are contained in schedule 14 of the Housing Act 2004 In Brief these include properties which are

  • controlled or managed by a Local Housing Authority
  • controlled or managed by registered social landlords and housing providers.
  • controlled and managed by police
  • controlled and managed by fire brigade
  • controlled and managed by Health Service Body
  • regulated by other enactments
  • occupied by religious communities (except section 257 HMOs)

Please check if the property is exempted before making an application. View the list

In some circumstances a temporary exemption from licensing can be granted. Temporary exemptions are only granted for three months.

The landlord must tell the council if the property no longer requires a license. For example:

  • if they are selling it into owner-occupation
  • if tenants have given notice (of their own accord) to vacate the property.

If the property is currently vacant or owner-occupied, and the landlord intends to keep it that way, then a temporary exemption is not required.

Please read our guidance to see if you are able to make an application for a temporary exemption.

 Apply for a Temporary Exemption Notice


Licence conditions 

Once the licence is issued it becomes an offence if the conditions are breached.

There are three ways that conditions are added to the licence;

  1.  The legislation includes a set of mandatory conditions which the council must attach to each licence issued.
  2. Councils can adopt a set of conditions to attach to every licence to address specific issues within their areas.
  3. Officers can attach conditions to individual licences if there are issues specific to the property.

Failure to meet licence conditions can result in a criminal conviction and an unlimited fine or be issued with a financial penalty of up to £30,000 for each condition breached.

Please note the conditions for each scheme is different and you will need to refer to the  standard conditions for the Selective and the Mandatory licensing schemes. However you must ensure you are aware of the conditions specific to your licence because there may be others attached by the officer.

The licence will specify the maximum number of people who may live in the HMO. It will also include the following conditions, which will apply to every licence:

  •  a valid current gas safety certificate, which is renewed annually, must be provided
  • proof that all the electrical appliances and furniture are kept in a safe condition
  • proof that the fire detection and smoke alarm system is installed and functioning correctly
  • each occupier must have a written statement of the terms on which they occupy the property, i.e. a tenancy agreement
  • overall management and conditions of the property.

Length of the licence term

The licence is valid for 5 years in Tower Hamlets assuming no significant changes to the property or the ownership in that time. If changes do occur within the licence period, the licence holder must inform the council. The council can issue a licence for a shorter term under some circumstances. 

Fees and refunds

Check the Fees and charges

Fees can be paid online using a UK bank registered card. There is also the facility to make bulk payments for landlords with many properties.

Overseas landlords

It is unlikely that we would issue a licence to somebody living outside the UK. The council will consider such a request if you can demonstrate that your duties as a licence holder are adequately covered by a responsible person and that they have the authority and funds to carry out urgent repairs if needed. 

Penalties for unlicensed properties

The council has an enforcement policy which details how we deal with breaches of the legislation. The service also has a policy which details specifically with how we deal with offences related to property licensing. Operating an unlicensed property that should be licensed can result in a criminal conviction and unlimited fine or a Financial Penalty of up to £30,000

Any convictions can affect the fit and proper person status and could therefore result in limitation in being able to manage a licensable property in future. The landlord can also be subject to;

  • Rent repayment Orders (RROs). If you live in a HMO that should be licensed but isn't, your landlord can be fined and ordered to repay up to 12 months' rent (or housing benefit to the council).
  • Reduced Capability to Evict. Many people living in HMOs have an assured shorthold tenancy if you're an assured shorthold tenant and the HMO should be licensed but isn't, any section 21 notice (two months' notice to leave) your landlord gives you is not valid.

Licensing Register

The Housing Act 2004 requires the council to hold a register of licensed properties in the borough.

View the Selective Licensing public register.  

Useful links

Fire, Gas and Electrical Safety

Property Licensing Conditions

Application form help

Property Licensing Enforcement


General Information