A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

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1. A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A House in Multiple Occupation also known as HMO, can often be considered permitted development, meaning it does not require an application for planning permission. However, this is only provided it meets all the necessary criteria and there are no constraints that restrict or remove permitted development rights. 

HMO or House in Multiple Occupation means that there are at least 3 people who are not from not from the same family living together in a property with shared facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. Changing a property into an HMO can be very complex and will require planning permission for a change of use class.

You must have a licence if you’re renting out a large HMO in England or Wales. Your property is defined as a large HMO if all of 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)

In order to secure planning permission to convert a property into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) it must meet all the requirements including the minimum living space. 

For any house in multiple occupancy that is likely to fall within permitted development a lawful development certificate is recommended as this is the only way to get a legal determination that your extension is permitted development. This will likely be required should you wish to sell the property at any stage in future and it protects you from any retrospective planning issues, enforcements or penalties. 

Ultimately, it is the planning officer assessing your application who will make the legal determination and either approve or reject your application. If your application for a lawful development certificate is rejected then an application for full planning permission would be required.

If there are any hidden constraints that limit or remove your permitted development rights, full planning permission may be required even if your project complies with all the permitted development criteria.

Building regulations approval will likely also be required once planning permission is approved, depending on the extent of the works.

2. Potential Constraints

With any development there are always potential planning constraints which are often hidden that can make the simplest of projects into a very complex planning application. 

For every type of development there are certain design criteria that must be met in addition to meeting all of the necessary planning policies, which vary between every local planning authority. For example, a HMO is something that could potentially be done under permitted development, however if it doesn’t meet even one of the design or planning criteria then full planning permission would be required.

In addition to this, there are many hidden constraints such as article 4 direction, section 106, conservation areas and even just living under a flight path can remove your permitted development rights meaning everything needs full planning approval. This can literally mean there could be two houses in the same town doing the exact same development and one could be built under permitted development while the other needs full planning permission.

In addition, specialist reports may also need to be submitted with all the usual supporting evidence and drawings. Examples of these include heritage statements, flood risk assessment, transport surveys, wildlife reports and many others.

If the building is listed in addition to securing planning approval you will also require listed building consent and building regulations approval before work can commence. Carrying out any works on a listed building without the necessary approvals is a criminal offence.  

3. Can you build without submitting an application first?

Even if we believe your project is likely to be considered permitted development, it is always strongly recommended that no work commences until all of the necessary planning and building regulations approvals are secured. Doing so would be at your own risk!

On a daily basis we receive enquiries from clients who have received planning enforcements and been given 28 days to secure planning permission or demolish their development, which is a very costly and stressful situation. 99% of these cases are clients who were sure their development was permitted having either read some info online or been mis-advised by their builder. 

In some cases, they could have been permitted with a few minor changes to the design. Sometimes they were permitted at the time of the build but the planning authority have subsequently imposed planning constraints removing their permitted development rights, meaning they now need retrospective planning permission and sometimes it was never going to be permitted development due to the local planning policy.

If you do get it wrong and receive an enforcement you could face fines of up to £20,000 and if planning can’t be approved retrospectively you would also need to put the property back to its original state!

4. Do you need planning permission?

To find out what would be required for your project you have a couple of options. You could submit a formal pre-application to your planning authority with the designs and project brief which your planning authority will respond to indicating what “might be required”. Ultimately the final design and application will determine their decision so the pre-app still does not give you a definitive answer. The process takes 8 weeks and can cost hundreds of pounds excluding any architectural designs.

Alternatively, Studio Charrette who are a partner of the government’s planning portal can conduct a planning appraisal. This involves a chartered planning consultant researching the project to check the relevant planning and design policies, they also check the planning history and look for any hidden constraints. This takes about an hour at which point they can call to advise what would be required and answer any questions. Subsequently, we forward the advice in writing.

There are never any guarantees with planning permission or permitted development because ultimately only your planning authority can make the legal determination. However, with a planning appraisal, we can let you know whether your proposed development would be feasible, assuming it is what the best route forward would be and the likelihood of success. As part of the planning appraisal, we can also advise you on building regulations, structural engineering calculations and construction.

Assuming the planning appraisal is positive we can then provide a quote for any services you want help with including architectural design, planning permission, building regulations and construction. Should you decide to instruct Studio Charrette can take care of everything for you from start to finish.

If you have any questions or would like to arrange a planning appraisal for your project, contact us today and a member of our team will contact you shortly.

5. How to apply for planning permission for an HMO?

Every application requires a variety of supporting evidence to justify why it should be approved, architectural drawings, maps, block plans and of course the correct application to be completed.

Once an application is submitted the planning authority first needs to validate it. They then have up to 8 weeks to process the application and reach a decision. It is however common for planning authorities to request additional information or minor design alterations which can delay the process further.

For this reason, it is recommended that you allow as much time as possible to receive the decision, at least 3 months and up to 12 months ahead is ideal. Once planning is approved you generally have 3 years to start work and 5 years to complete the work.

In theory anyone can submit an application although other than industry professionals those who try are often rejected unnecessarily due to missing information or mistakes. Even architects are generally only qualified in design but not planning so, while they can draw anything this does not mean that it meets all of the necessary planning criteria. In fact, lots of clients come to us having been rejected with an architect because the application did not meet the necessary planning criteria.

At Studio Charrette, we have a team of inhouse architects and planners who work together on every application. This ensures the design meets both our client’s expectation and also the expectations of the planning authority to give every application the best chance of success.

6. Price Match Guarantee

We fully appreciate any unexpected cost is going to be unwelcome, but you will be pleased to know our prices are so competitive, we offer a price match guarantee and in most cases the planning costs are insignificant compared to the development.

If there is a way to help you achieve a positive outcome our chartered planning consultants will give you the best chance of success. Equally if we think it simply isn’t feasible, while it may be bad newswe are obliged to give you frank and honest professional advice.

7. Choose Studio Charrette!

If you choose to instruct Studio Charrette, we will take care of everything for you from this point including liaising with the enforcement officer and preparing all the necessary documents to submit to your planning authority.

We will keep you updated from start to finish until we receive a decision, which thanks to our planning appraisals is usually positive.

Don’t leave it until it’s too late!

If you are in any doubt about how to deal with your HMO planning permission application or the likelihood of Success,
contact us right away to speak with one of our Expert Chartered Planning Consultants.

Enquire Now

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