What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?


What is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)?

House in Multiple Occupation – HMO

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property rented out by 3 or more people (like 3 or more friends or students), who are not from a single ‘household’ (for example a family), but who share living facilities such as the bathroom and or the kitchen. This is often called a ‘house share.’

Properties all around England and Wales that are operating as HMOs require a licence, and technically planning permission is required also. A licence can be required for a HMO is the following apply:

  • it is rented to 5 or more people who form more than 1 household
  • some or all tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities
  • at least 1 tenant pays rent (or their employer pays it for them)

Further information on licences can be found on the Government website:

Shows occupants sitting around a table in a house in multiple occupation, with the overlaid words, Houses in Multiple Occupation. / House in Multiple Occupation

Obtaining a licence for a HMO is one requirement, but another is to obtain Planning Permission or a Certificate of Lawfulness to permit or confirm the use from the Local Planning Authority.

Permission to be operating as a HMO can often be sought by way of a Certificate of Lawfulness. For the use of a building as a HMO, there are two types of lawful development certificate to consider:

  1. The existing use of the land, which is lawful under Section 191 of the Town and Country Planning Act; or
  2. The proposed use of the land, which is lawful under Section 192 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

However, these can not be obtained if permitted development rights have been removed, such as by way of an Article 4 direction.

What is an Article 4 Direction?

An Article 4 direction is made under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order which enables the Local Planning Authority, or indeed the Secretary of State, to withdraw specific permitted development rights across a defined area. This cannot be used to restrict changes between the same use class of the Use Class Order, but can limit and restrict any development otherwise permitted by general consent in the Order.

A ‘normal’ residential dwelling, i.e.- one not operating as a HMO, is classified as Class C3, whereas a small HMO falls under use class C4. Therefore, an article 4 direction can be used to restrict permitted development rights regarding the change of use from a C3 Dwellinghouse to a C4 HMO, or vice versa.

What if I want to apply for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) now?

If you wish to convert your dwelling to a HMO then it may be possible to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use.

If your site does fall within an area which is covered by an Article 4 direction – do not fear! If you wish to apply to convert your dwelling to a HMO then this may still be achieved through a full planning application. This will be a more comprehensive application and consider additional constraints.

If you would like to find out what constraints, including article 4 directions, may limit your change of use, or indeed any development then we can offer to conduct an appraisal to investigate this. This is often the first step we take as a planning consultancy so that we might establish the planning considerations before engaging with an application.

The final section of all of our planning appraisals is the Strategy, within which we shall set out the next steps we would recommend to achieve your development. If you would like to learn more about our appraisal services you can find out more feel free to contact us.

What if the HMO use has already commenced in an Article 4 area?

If you already have a HMO which is in operation before an Article 4 Direction is made, but doesn’t have planning permission, there are a couple of different routes to take depending on when the use first began.

For properties for which the use started after the article 4 came into effect, full planning permission will be required. However, for those properties for which the use began before the article 4 came into effect and have continuously been used for this purpose, a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use may be able to be obtained.

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