Councils across England are using Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights (PDR) to create houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). In those areas, you need planning permission if you want to rent your house or flat out to 3 or more sharers (i.e. people who aren’t in a single family or household).
The spread of these Article 4 directions is catching landlords unaware. HMO licensing teams are requiring that smaller HMOs get a HMO license and sometimes, when you apply for such a licence, the team requests confirmation that you have planning permission for the HMO, or don’t need it.
If a property in an Article 4 area was already let as a Class C4 HMO before the direction came into effect, no planning permission is required (the change of use has already taken place). To show that your HMO is lawful for this reason, you need to apply for a certificate of lawfulness (also known as a lawful development certificate) to confirm this fact.
These certificates have become a large part of our workload and we have obtained 7 certificates for different clients over part two months, mostly in the London boroughs of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets (including this one at Babbage Point). In the last couple of weeks, we have had a number of enquiries from clients in Ealing who have been notified that an Article 4 direction is planned for that area. One of our own planning consultants has a buy-to-let flat in Ealing and is busy preparing her own certificate of lawfulness application.
The whole area of HMOs and planning has become quite complicated in recent years. Landlords have been investing in them in larger numbers to boost their rental returns, and councils have responded with a crackdown. You often need planning permission for a HMO now, where you might not have done in the past, and planning enforcement teams are quick to take action against unlawful HMOs.
We are doing a lot of planning and enforcement appeals for clients in this area. It is important to act early if you have any planning issues and get professional advice. Contact our lovely planning consultants for advice.
Our chief executive, Martin Gaine, has written a book on HMOs and the planning system – read some free extracts and find out more details about the book here.
He has also prepared a 6-part video series to teach HMO landlords the basics of planning permission and HMOs, available on his website here. Finally, check out the Planning for HMOs cheat sheet, also available on Martingaine.com.