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If managed efficiently and fully occupied, HMO properties can be extremely lucrative investments. But they’re also subject to lots of regulation and changing legislation, and the rules surrounding planning permission can be confusing.

Here, planning expert, Alison Broderick, talks about the planning challenges surrounding HMOs, and answers your HMO FAQs.

What is an HMO?

The definition for an HMO is:

It’s rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household
It’s at least 3 storeys high
Tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities
You must have a licence if you’re renting out an HMO, which is a completely different set of legislation to planning, (which we’ll cover below), but it’s important to note that both need to be complied with.

In recent years, certain boroughs have also brought in legislation which means that even if your property is smaller and rented to fewer people, you may still need a property licence to let it out. It’s best to check with your council to see if this applies to you.

What planning class does an HMO fall into?

Since 6th April 2010, small houses and flats in multiple occupation (HMOs) now fall within their own “class” for planning purposes, C4 class.

What is the difference between C3, C4 and Sui Generis planning classes?

All land uses are defined in the planning Use Class Order. “C” class properties mean they fall into a residential use. C3 class is a standard family/single occupancy dwelling. Cr4 class refers to small HMOs (of between 3 and 6 occupiers) and Sui Generis literally means “in a class of its own” and covers large HMOs of 7 or more people (plus many other things).

When does an HMO need planning permission?

You always need planning permission to move in and out of the Sui Generis use class, so any HMO of 7 or more people needs planning permission regardless of location.

It is a Permitted Development Right to move between C3 and C4 classes and back again, so in most cases, a small HMO does not need planning permission. However, you may also need planning permission if your HMO is in the C4 class and your local authority has an Article 4 Direction. This is a power councils have to remove permitted development rights and they can use this to require planning permission for small HMOs as well. You may also need planning permission regardless of the size of the HMO if there is a planning condition on your property restricting the use.

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