HMO Planning Permission

Understanding the Rules and Regulations

The UK has seen a significant increase in the number of HMO housing over the past few decades. HMOs are properties that are rented out to three or more tenants who are not from the same household and share facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet. The demand for this type of accommodation has grown significantly due to the affordability and the convenience of having a shared living space. 

Not all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) require HMO planning permission. However, many potential HMO investors are curious about the circumstances under which a property being converted into a HMO would need planning permission. This article will address the common questions regarding HMO planning permission, including permitted development rights, article 4 and planning permission vs HMO Licencing.

Difference Between Planning Permission and HMO Licencing

Getting planning permission for a HMO conversion is separate from obtaining a HMO licence. Planning permission involves gaining approval from the local government for construction work or a change of building use. Meanwhile, a HMO licence is granted by the local authority to guarantee that the HMO complies with standards such as fire safety, ventilation, and room dimensions. Having a HMO licence does not guarantee planning permission and vice versa.

Understanding Class C3 and C4

It is important for HMO investors and landlords to know what Class C3 and Class C4 are because the classification of a property determines the requirements for planning permission and the legal obligations of the landlord. If a property is classified as Class C3, the landlord may need to obtain planning permission to convert it into an HMO.

Essentially, Class C3 and Class C4 are categorizations in the UK’s Use Classes Order, which classifies different types of properties and their uses:

  • Class C3 refers to the class of use for dwelling houses, which includes single family homes, as well as small residential care homes for up to six residents.
  • Class C4 refers to the class of use for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), which includes properties that are rented out to three or more tenants who are not from the same household and share facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.
  • The ability to convert a Class C3 property into a Class C4 property often relies on permitted development rights.

Permitted Development

Permitted development refers to a set of regulations that outline the types of building work and changes that can be made to a property without the need for planning permission from the local authority. The regulations allow for certain alterations, extensions, and conversions to be made to a property within specified limits and conditions.

Permitted development is a convenient way for property owners to make changes to their properties without the need for a lengthy planning application process. The regulations vary between local authorities, but they generally aim to promote the efficient use of land and buildings while also preserving the character and appearance of the area. Permitted development rules are usually updated regularly to reflect changing needs and circumstances.

In general, if a property is being converted into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) for 6 occupants or fewer, it will not require planning permission. These conditions are outlined in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 and include:

  • The property is not located in a conservation area, national park, or area of outstanding natural beauty.
  • The property is not listed as a building of special architectural or historic interest.
  • The property has not had its permitted development rights removed.

Exceptions for Permitted Development in HMO Properties

In some cases, permitted development may not apply to certain HMOs, and planning permission must be obtained. One such instance is where Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 is in effect.

Article 4 restricts or removes certain permitted development rights in specified areas to protect the character and appearance of the area and prevent harm to the area’s amenity. It is usually implemented in areas where there is a high concentration of HMOs or where the local authority determines it necessary to control the conversion of properties into HMOs.

Property owners must check with their local authority to determine if Article 4 applies to their property. If it does, then planning permission must be obtained for the conversion of the property into an HMO.

Article 4 Has Been Introduced in my Area, Do I Need HMO Planning Permission?

If an Article 4 direction is being introduced in your area, and you already have a HMO property, you may need to apply for planning permission. In some cases, retrospective planning permission may be available, but this depends on the specific circumstances of your property and the local authority’s policies.

Retrospective planning permission is a planning application submitted after work has been carried out without prior planning permission. In some cases, it may be granted if the work carried out does not have a significant impact on the surrounding area or the local authority’s planning policies. However, retrospective planning permission is not always granted and a HMO will usually require planning permission unless it has been continuously occupied as such for 10 years.

If you are unsure about whether your HMO requires planning permission after the introduction of Article 4, it is advisable to contact your local authority’s planning department for clarification and to discuss the options with them.

Should HMO Landlords get a Lawful Development Certificate?

A Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) is a document that confirms that a proposed use or development of a property complies with the relevant planning laws. The certificate provides proof that the property can be used or developed as intended, without the need for planning permission.

For HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) investors or landlords, having an LDC may be a good idea even if they do not necessarily require one. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Protection against enforcement action: Having an LDC provides evidence that the use of the property is lawful, and it can protect the HMO owner against enforcement action by the local authority if there are any complaints about the property’s use.
  • Peace of mind: An LDC can give the HMO owner peace of mind that they are operating within the law and that the property is being used for a lawful purpose.
  • Easier to sell or refinance: An LDC can make it easier for the HMO owner to sell or refinance the property, as the certificate provides assurance to potential buyers or lenders that the use of the property is lawful.

A lawful development certificate (LDC) and HMO Planning Permission
If a HMO is in an area where Article 4 is being introduced, having a LDC in place would not necessarily exempt the HMO owner from the requirement to obtain planning permission. The introduction of Article 4 in an area can result in restrictions on the use of properties, and the conversion of properties into HMOs may require planning permission. In such cases, having a LDC in place may provide evidence to support the HMO owner’s case for not needing planning permission, but it does not guarantee that permission will not be required. The decision on whether planning permission is needed will depend on the specific circumstances and the interpretation of the relevant planning laws and regulations by the local authority.


It is crucial for HMO investors and landlords to understand the rules and regulations surrounding HMO planning permission. The classification of a property, either Class C3 or Class C4, plays a significant role in determining the requirements for planning permission. Permitted development rights offer an efficient solution for property owners to make changes to their properties, but Article 4 may restrict these rights in specified areas, which require planning permission for HMO conversion. Furthermore, it is essential for landlords to keep an eye on their local council to see if an Article 4 direction is going to be enforced in the future, as it may affect their property’s status.

If you’re looking for professional HMO management or HMO letting services in South London or if you require expert HMO advice get in touch.

Carl Evans

Written By Carl Evans

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