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Further Change in Planning Rules for Houses in Multiple Occupation
- Published 17 June 2010

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Shapps: Power for councils to manage shared homes in their area

Published 17 June 2010

Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced that from 1st October 2010 councils will have greater flexibility to manage concentrations of shared housing in their area, without tying landlords in red tape.

A high concentration of shared homes can sometimes cause problems, especially if too many properties in one area are let to short term tenants with little stake in the local community.

So changes to legislation will give councils the freedom to choose areas where landlords must submit a planning application to rent their properties to unrelated tenants - known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

This will enable high concentrations of HMOs to be controlled where local authorities decide there is a problem, but will prevent landlords across the country being driven from the rental market by high costs and red tape.

It is estimated that as many as 8,500 planning applications could be submitted each year if every landlord looking to turn their property into a HMO is first required to seek permission - instead, councils will be able to focus their efforts in particular neighbourhoods where HMOs present a problem, while landlords of HMOs in other areas will not be tied up in red tape.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"Councils know about local issues with shared homes, and don't need top-down rules from Whitehall to deal with problems that don't exist. Where too many shared homes are causing problems for other residents or changing the character of a neighbourhood, councils should be able to control their spread. But I'm not going to create unnecessary costs for landlords, which puts the supply of rented homes at risk.

"That's why I'm giving councils the power to decide whether to use the planning system to control the spread of shared housing where it is a problem. This will give them the flexibility to make decisions that are right for their communities, rather than stifling the rental market with unnecessary costs and red tape.

"Shared homes ensure people who want to live and work in towns and cities can do so, and are vital to the economy. These changes will safeguard the supply of shared housing where it is needed without burdening landlords with cumbersome red tape - but will also hand councils the flexibility they need to tackle problems where they occur."


1. Councils are to be given more flexibility to manage HMOs in their area. The problems that arise from concentrations of HMOs are not widespread and the current requirement imposes an unnecessary burden on landlords and local planning authorities in those areas where HMOs are not a problem. It also runs the risk of reducing supply if landlords choose to move out of the sector rather than face the costs and delays of applying for planning permission.

2. The definition of a small HMO (the C4 use class) will remain and permitted development rights will be extended to allow all changes between the C4 and C3 classes without the need for planning applications. In areas where there is a need to control HMO development, local authorities will be able to use an Article 4 direction to remove these permitted development rights and require planning applications for such changes of use.

3. These proposals will mean that any change of use between dwelling houses and small HMOs will be able to happen without planning permission unless the local council believes there is problem with such development in a particular area. In these areas they will be able to use article 4 powers to require planning permission.

4. Consultation with interested partners on this issue will ensure that the new rules work effectively for local people without placing an unnecessary burden on landlords and local planning authorities.

5. The proposals are part of wider reform to the planning system so that it moves away from the current top-down approach and create a system which encourages local people to take responsibility for shaping their communities, and gives power to councils to make this happen.

Following this announcement City of York Council decided to take advantage of these powers with effect from 20 April 2012.

Click Here to view Change to Planning Law for HMOs - City of York Council's Article 4 Direction

Constructive feedback on this information would be welcomed. If you have any comments please email giving details of your suggested corrections or additions and clearly stating your name and interest (eg tenant, landlord or planning advisor). Your comments will be considered when the article is next updated.