Properties which have been operating as small House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) (use class C4) for many years, and prior to the introduction of the Article 4 Directive, may be immune from enforcement action and only require a Certificate of Lawfulness in order to be regularised. This was the advice that ET Planning recently gave to a client after reviewing their case for how to regulate two properties which were operating as HMOs but without the legal status.
The applications which ET Planning went on to support on behalf of the client were for two properties within the Basingstoke and Deane Borough. The council introduced the Article 4 Directive on 22nd July 2012 which removed the permitted development rights of properties and required that change of use applications were submitted for HMO’s.
However, in the case of these properties, they had been operating as HMOs prior to the introduction of the Directive and so they only needed to apply for a certificate of lawfulness in order to regularise the status of the dwellings.
The applications were for a seven bedroom HMO in Basingstoke, which had been in operation since April 2008, and a five bedroom HMO in Popley which had been operating since March 2012.
Upon reviewing the case, ET Planning was able to advise the client of the evidence that would need to be submitted along with the applications in order to obtain a certificate of lawfulness. This included proof of tenancy agreements and Statutory Declarations, which can be relied upon as true and clear, and afforded significant weight.
As part of the applications ET Planning referenced the ‘balance of probability’ which is the relevant test for Lawful Use applications. The National Planning Policy Guidance states that “In the case of applications for existing use, if a local planning authority has no evidence itself, nor any from others, to contradict or otherwise make the applicant’s version of events less than probable, there is no good reason to refuse the application, provided the applicant’s evidence alone is sufficiently precise and unambiguous to justify the grant of a certificate on the balance of probability”.
Both properties have now received a certificate of lawfulness and are classed as existing HMOs.