February 28

Do I Need Planning Permission For an HMO Property?


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Contemplating your next HMO acquisition or navigating compliance for an existing one? The landscape of HMO regulations can be intricate, encompassing facets like full planning, permitted development, Article 4, C3, C4, and Sui Generis use classes, which might be perplexing. We’ve delved deep into this complex arena, conducting extensive research from councils and tapping into the expertise of seasoned professionals. The outcome is a comprehensive guide designed to simplify the nuanced realm of HMO Planning Permission.

Our guide is a valuable resource, providing insights into the latest regulations and shedding light on the multifaceted world of planning requirements. Whether you are seeking to understand if planning is necessary, how to obtain it, or looking for strategies to overcome common objections, our guide has you covered. With regular reviews and updates, we ensure that you stay abreast of the dynamic changes in HMO regulations, offering you a reliable and current reference point.

Navigating the HMO Planning Permission process becomes more manageable with our guide, offering not just information but practical strategies for successful HMO property management. Stay well-informed, mitigate risks, and confidently handle the challenges posed by the ever-evolving HMO regulatory landscape. Trust our comprehensive guide to equip you with the knowledge and insights needed to make informed decisions regarding your HMO property investments.


What Are HMOs? 

HMO, or House of Multiple Occupancy, is a property type owned by an individual or company and leased to multiple unrelated tenants concurrently. In an HMO, occupants share common facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom. To visualize it, consider your student days in university accommodation, living with friends in a property owned or leased by the university, or in a shared house with unfamiliar individuals. Essentially, HMOs operate on a shared-living model where multiple tenants coexist, utilizing communal spaces within the property.


What is HMO Planning? 

HMOs, accommodating numerous residents, come with potential risks associated with shared facilities like kitchen appliances. To mitigate these risks, councils impose regulations based on the number of individuals residing in a house. In straightforward terms, planning refers to the formal approval sought from the local council for alterations or constructions in buildings, specifically for use Class C4 (small HMO) and/or Sui Generis (large HMO). While we’ll delve into the different classes shortly, it’s essential to grasp that planning permission involves securing the council’s approval for proposed changes or developments.

HMO Planning, as defined by the Housing Act of 2004, was established by the government to regulate and guide the approval process for alterations and developments related to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). The legislation sets the framework for obtaining planning permission, a crucial step in ensuring that alterations or new developments comply with local regulations and contribute to the safety and functionality of HMO properties. Understanding these regulations is vital for landlords and property owners to navigate the planning process effectively.


Is Planning Permission Required For An HMO? 

The straightforward answer hinges on the existing use class and the property’s occupancy. Planning permission is required if you’re renting to 7 or more unrelated individuals, irrespective of the number of bedrooms. Additionally, if the location falls under an Article 4 Direction (indicating added restrictions imposed by the local council), obtaining planning permission becomes necessary. Further details on Article 4 areas are provided below for a more comprehensive understanding.


HMO Use Class

The Government categorizes land into different classes for practicality and streamlined development. The “C” class properties pertain to the residential category, accommodating either single families (applicable to Buy To Let) or multiple tenants (pertaining to an HMO). The three primary “C” planning use classes include C3, C4, and Sui Generis. Now, let’s delve into the specific meanings of each.



This category includes properties occupied by a single person or family, an employer and specific domestic employees, a carer and the person receiving care, and a foster parent and foster child.



This classification pertains to properties occupied by up to six unrelated individuals using the property as their sole primary residence, sharing common facilities like a kitchen and bathroom.



“Sui Generis” is a Latin term denoting “a class of its own.” This category encompasses anything non-standard, such as a theatre, nightclub, cinema, fuel station, dance hall, betting shop, and even a 7-bed+ HMO. If there are more than 6 unrelated people sharing a common kitchen and bathroom in a house, it falls under the “Sui Generis” class.


What Is An Article 4 Area? 

You might have come across Article 4 in property discussions. Before delving into it, it’s crucial to grasp permitted developments. These are automatic permissions granted by local authorities for construction or changes of use. Due to a rise in HMOs in busy city centres and areas with intensive jobs, local authorities imposed restrictions to ensure safe living conditions. Concerns included the impact on parking, waste, and resources.

Article 4 directives specifically target the conversion of properties from C3 to C4 (single-family to HMO), requiring a full planning application. These restrictions aim to address the perceived effects of HMOs on local areas. Depending on the city or town, Article 4 restrictions may be widespread or limited to specific areas or streets. It’s essential to consult each council’s website to determine if an Article 4 Directive is in place and understand the associated rules.


Does A 6 Bed HMO Need Planning Permission? 

In most cases, 6-bed HMOs operate without planning permission. However, if the area falls under an Article 4 Direction, planning permission is mandatory, regardless of the HMO’s size. The exemption applies to HMOs up to 6 bedrooms already classified by the Council as C4 use class. When acquiring an HMO in an Article 4 area, ensure:

  1. Obtain Tenancy Agreements from the previous landlord, showcasing the property’s HMO use over years.
  2. Obtain details of the HMO Licensing from the previous landlord (though non-transferable, it proves the property’s HMO use).
  3. Check for an approved “Lawful Development Certificate” on the Local City Council’s Planning Portal for existing HMO use. If absent, provide documentation from points 1 and 2 to continue HMO use in an Article 4 area.


How Can I Get HMO Planning Permission?

When dealing with HMO planning permission, the process varies based on whether the property is within an Article 4 Directive or not:


1. Property within an Article 4 Directive:

   In this scenario, obtaining full planning permission is necessary. Unfortunately, most councils don’t facilitate pre-planning applications to assess potential approval before property purchase. To gauge the likelihood of successful planning, analyze comparables and consult with local architects, solicitors, and planning consultants. Buying the property subject to planning permission approval is a viable option.


2. Property NOT within an Article 4 Directive:

   If the property isn’t under an Article 4 Directive, full planning permission is not required. Instead, you can obtain permission through permitted development. This streamlined process simplifies the approval for construction or change of use, making it a more straightforward route for properties not subject to Article 4 restrictions.


What Happens If You Don’t Have HMO Planning Permission? 

If you proceed without obtaining the necessary planning permission, it results in a “planning breach,” and there are two common scenarios leading to such breaches:

1. No Planning Application or Refusal but Construction Carried Out:

   – If planning permission was never applied for or was refused, yet construction took place, it constitutes a planning breach.


2. Construction Breaking Conditions of Granted Planning Permission:

   – If the construction violates one or more conditions of the granted planning permission, it also falls under a planning breach.

It’s important to note that a planning breach is not inherently illegal. In many cases, councils allow retrospective planning, where permission was not initially sought. However, if the retrospective application fails, the council can issue an enforcement notice, compelling you to revert the property to its original state.

Disobeying enforcement notices is against the law. Refusal to comply may lead to legal prosecution, emphasizing the importance of adhering to planning regulations to avoid potential legal consequences.


MORE Property blogs HERE: 

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Why Are Buy-to-Let Mortgages Interest Only?

Is Buy-to-Let Still Profitable Today?

A Comprehensive Guide to Buy-to-Let Mortgages

First-Time Buyer’s Guide to Buy-to-Let Mortgages


Do I Need Planning Permission For an HMO Property?, Is Planning Permission Required For An HMO?, What Are HMOs?, What is HMO Planning?

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