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Frequently asked questions about planning permissions for HMOs

Answers to frequently asked questions about planning permission for Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Frequently asked questions

No, only properties identified by the Directions are affected. You can find out if your property is affected by looking at the plans and property lists accompanying the Directions - go to HMO page.

No, in the areas covered by the Directions, any affected dwelling house is prevented from changing to a shared house (house in multiple occupation) whether or not it is occupied by students, without planning permission.

If your house is within an area covered by either of the Article 4 Directions and was already a shared house prior to the effective date of the Direction, it will not be affected.

If the property was in use as an HMO at some point before the effective date of the Article 4 Direction relating to your property’s address, its use as an HMO will be protected during periods of vacancy, providing that the use of the property is not changed. For example, if there was a three-month gap between one set of HMO tenants leaving and a new set occupying the property this would not affect the property’s status as an HMO. If, however, the HMO tenants leave the property and it was then rented out to a family, the use of the property would then change back to use class C3. To become an HMO again after this change, planning permission would be required.

A periodic reduction in HMO numbers may raise a query as to the planning status of the property (e.g., has a material change of use taken place?). A generic answer cannot be given here. Each case would have to be considered on its own merits. A temporary reduction in numbers of unrelated people would not necessarily constitute a material change of use provided there was clearly an active intention to re-let the vacant room in the future (for example through advertising). You may find a discussion with one of the Council’s enforcement officers helpful if you are concerned about this scenario.

Ownership of a property is irrelevant. It is the nature of the use of the property which is the key to determining its status in planning terms.

In this scenario, unless the individual facts suggested otherwise, the residents would not be considered as living together as a household. The property would therefore be classed as an HMO. If this use commenced after the coming into force of the Article 4 Direction covering your property’s address, planning permission would be required.

In this scenario, unless the individual facts suggested otherwise, it would be considered that the occupiers were living together as a household. This is planning use class C3 which does not require planning permission.

A property occupied by its owner, a member of its household (e.g., partner) and up to two unrelated lodgers does not constitute an HMO. The property’s use is class C3 so it would not require planning permission.

No, the Directions only restrict a change to a house in multiple occupation (use of a dwelling by 3-6 residents not living together as a household) within specified areas. Families living together are not affected.

If you intend to rent the house out after the Direction has come into force (and the house was not already a shared house), you will need to apply for planning permission to rent out the property to between 3 and 6 people. At the moment such planning applications are generally refused.

If you are concerned, you could report the occupancy of the property to the council, which will investigate and decide whether to take enforcement action against the landlord of the property.

Unauthorised use as a shared house could lead to enforcement action by the Council.

If your house is in one of the affected areas, the fact that would make your shared house lawful is whether or not it was in use as a shared house before the date that the relevant Article 4 Direction came into effect, and whether or not it has continued in use as a shared house since that date. If the answer to both those questions is ‘yes’, then your property would be lawful in planning terms.

The local planning authority will not be likely to ask you to prove the lawful use of your property unless we receive complaints that the use is unlawful. However, you may wish to prove that the use of your property is lawful for other non-planning related reasons. There is a mechanism for applying for what are known as ‘Certificates of Lawful Existing Use’. You can apply for one through the Planning Portal website. There is currently an administrative fee of £462 for these applications. You would need to supply evidence to support your application that demonstrates to the local planning authority that the use of the property as a shared house is lawful.

There is no set format of evidence that you should supply with an application for a Certificate of Existing Lawful Use. However, commonly submitted evidence includes copies of tenancy agreements, council tax exemptions (where the property has been occupied solely by students) or HMO licenses.