HMOs video guide​ – Part 6 – Planning Permission for HMOs

Welcome to the sixth and final part of our video guide to the Planning System and HMOs.

Always remember these key concepts and top tips:

• The current definition of a HMO comes from thee 2004 Housing Act. It says that a HMO is a dwelling occupied by three or more people in two or more households.

• In planning there are two types of HMOs. A smaller HMO is occupied by 3 to 6 people; a larger HMO is occupied by 7 or more people.

• Larger HMOs always need planning permission. Smaller HMOs only need planning permission if the council has introduced an Article 4 Direction. Otherwise, smaller HMOs are permitted development.

• Article 4 directions are spreading around the country and catching lots of landlords unawares. Monitor the situation in your local council area, ensure your properties are let as HMOs when an Article 4 comes in and apply for certificates of lawfulness for your HMOs so that they are protected from enforcement action.

• If you need planning permission, you should familiarise yourself with the relevant local planning policies. Contact the duty planning officer or read the officers’ reports for similar HMO applications.

• You should never apply for planning permission without having a good idea in advance about how it will be assessed and what the likely outcome is. Make a robust proposal and take care to choose a good architect/agent.

• If permission is refused, read the officer’s report carefully to work out why it was refused and whether you should revise and resubmit, or appeal. A refusal is not the end of the road and the appeal success rate for HMOs is around 40%. Employ the services of a good planning consultant with HMO experience.

• Apply for a certificate of lawfulness to establish that your HMO is lawful either because it has been in continuous use as a HMO for a period of 10 years or because it is a smaller HMO and it was created before an Article 4 came into effect. If you have HMOs that you have been running for decades or HMOs that were created before the arrival of an Article 4, but for which you don’t have planning permission, I strongly recommend applying for a certificate to establish that they are lawful and safe from the council’s planning enforcement officers.

• There has been a massive increase in enforcement action against HMOs. Before, councils often turned a blind eye, now they are targeting HMOs that do not have full planning permission. They may turn up. Unannounced and demand that you prove that your HMO is lawful, or require that you apply for permission for it. Consider a retrospective planning application or apply for a certificate of lawfulness. Almost always appeal an enforcement notice. Don’t assume that it can’t happen to you!

• The planners are coming for HMO landlords. Don’t be complacent – take action now. Review your portfolio and make sure your HMOs have planning permission or certificates of lawfulness. If buying or creating new HMOs, make sure that they, too, are lawful. Don’t assume that, just because you have been operating without any difficulties for decades, you will continue to do so.

For more, check out Martin Gaine’s book, Planning for HMOs:

For planning consultancy services, check out Just Planning:

Finally, download the Planning for HMOs cheat sheet at: