HMOs and Article 4 Directions – FAQ

As more councils tighten up planning policies with article 4 directions to stop landlords letting shared homes to students, single renters and migrant workers, this guide takes a look at how the rules work.

Frustrated Businessman

What is an article 4 direction?

They direction is nothing new. Councils have used them to control local planning issues for many years. For instance, many councils have the directions for governing changes property owners can make in conservation areas.

Technically, the direction removes a homeowner’s permitted development rights under to Article 4(1) of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, as amended.

Permitted development rights are alterations a homeowner can generally carry out without permission from the council.

How does the direction affect landlords?

If a council has imposed the direction, landlords cannot open a house in multiple occupation (HMO) without first applying for planning permission.

The direction does not change mandatory planning needed for an HMO for six or more tenants, only those for three to five tenants sharing kitchen or bathroom facilities in a house as more than one household.

What about existing HMOs?

Only HMOs opened on or after the day the direction comes in to force need to apply for permission.

Existing HMOs are deemed to have permission and the landlord does not need to make any planning application.

I had an HMO but switched to a single tenancy and want to let as an HMO again

If you had deemed permission but changed the property use from an HMO to a single home and now want to relet as an HMO, you must apply for planning permission.

How do I know if an area is controlled by an article 4 direction?

The only way to be absolutely sure is to ask the council. Some councils have directions covering the entire district, while some relate only to a neighbourhood or a few streets.

When should I make the check?Before exchanging contracts on a property – if you buy and then find the direction applies, you may not let the home as an HMO.

What if the property is already an HMO when I buy?

Again check before exchanging contracts. You need to know the current owner either has deemed permission as the property was an HMO before the direction started or that they have planning approval if the switch was made after the direction started.

Who do I deal with at the council?

The housing department generally has an HMO officer who can answer questions about article 4 directions

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