Houses in multiple occupation are often a source of confusion and potential planning law problems.
Planning problems such as a sudden Article 4 Direction, affecting HMOs in particular, or a Planning Contravention Notice can be upsetting and disorientating for a property owner. What do you have to do? What steps do you have to take?
Fortunately, Kingsley Smith Solicitors can help with many of the issues around HMOs.
Need Help With HMO Planning?
If you need help with the planning law and policies surrounding houses in multiple occupation, Kingsley Smith Solicitors are able to help.
You may find that you need help very early on in the process, or very late. In all cases, it is better to get legal advice earlier on if you are unsure of the correct way forward. With HMO planning law, it is not easier to beg forgiveness than to get the right permission in the first place.
There are three main situations we encounter quite frequently that we can help with.
Setting Up An HMO
If you are setting up or enlarging an HMO, it is likely that you are looking for advice about what you can do to maximise your investment. In this situation, we can provide advice about what to do and how to do it from a planning perspective. If your project is delayed by a difficult planning situation, then where it is appropriate we can help with a planning application or appeal.
Coping With Enforcement Officers And Notices
If you have been running an HMO independently and fallen foul of planning regulations and the local authorities, there's no need to panic. If your local authority is affecting the way you are able to run your HMO, we can provide independent advice and help you get back on track as quickly as possible.
While you are still getting visits from an Enforcement Officer, we can advise you what the best strategy and approach is for dealing with these visits. We can also negotiate with the Officer ourselves.
If you are, unfortunately, dealing with an Enforcement Notice related to an HMO, we can advise you and deal with the appeal. We can either take care of the appeal from start to finish, or provide advice along the way as required.
After An Enforcement Notice Appeal
If you have appealed against an Enforcement Notice and lost, you may find that you are being prosecuted for non-compliance with an Enforcement Notice. The stakes are highest at this stage, as being found guilty is not only a criminal offence, but carries with it an often-hefty fine, a liability to pay costs, and a confiscation order.
Again, even at this late stage we are able to work with you to get the best possible outcome.
To find out more about our services, use the "Ask Us A Free Legal Question" form on the right hand side of the page.
What Is An HMO?
An HMO is a house in multiple occupation, defined by the government as any property that is being rented to three or more occupants who are not from the same household.
More than one of these households must share an 'amenity' – such as kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.
A 'household', in this sense, is usually a single person, relatives or half-relatives, people in a relationship with each other, and step-parents, step-children or foster children.
A council may serve an "HMO Declaration" to bring a property within the HMO definition in certain circumstances, and there are some other building requirements that might change a building's status.
What Exemptions Are There?
There are some exemptions, for example, if the landlord is one of the people in an HMO with no more than two other persons, it is exempted. Similarly, if only two people live in an HMO, it is also exempted.
A social landlord, police authority, health service or fire and rescue service will also be exempted.
Some buildings occupied by students – for example, halls of residence – may be excluded. This exemption can trip people up, as it is not often the case that buildings occupied by students will count as anything other than an HMO. It is only buildings occupied by students who attend the same educational establishment that owns the building who qualify for this particular kind of exemption.
Buildings governed by other, usually more stringent, requirements will not be HMOs – for instance a care home will not be an HMO.
Also, certain religious institutions may be exempt.
Common issues that arise with HMOs
A common issue that arises is whether an HMO can comprise individual rooms with individual kitchenettes. This can be possible in certain circumstances, and so long as there are other shared facilities (e.g. bathrooms). If there aren’t any shared facilities, the bedrooms could become self-contained residential accommodation, which could amount to a material change of use requiring planning permission.
We can assist in guiding you through what is possible and not possible, and help you if you are the subject of enforcement action alleging a material change of use or want advice how to layout a new HMO to comply with planning regulation.
C3 To HMO - Change Of Use
A change of use from a family home to an HMO –might require planning permission, depending on multiple factors including the number of proposed tenants and whether there is an Article 4 Direction in place. Smaller HMOs ( for up to 6 people) come within C4 use whereas larger HMOs are Sui Generis.
Facing Planning Problems Over HMO Management?
Kingsley Smith Solicitors LLP are specialist planning law solicitors, and can help you with planning law issues arising around HMO management. Find out more about planning law for businesses, developers and landlords.