Changes to planning permission required for HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation)

Matthew Garrod, Partner in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, real estate, planning and construction team.
Matthew Garrod
4 min Read

From 1 October 2010, if you are the landlord of a house which is shared by up to six tenants, you will no longer need to apply for planning permission for a change of use from a dwelling house to a small HMO.

Local authorities that want to retain control over the proliferation of multi tenanted houses in a specific area can apply article 4 directions (which means that planning permission will be required in specific areas). Landlords should check the planning department of their local authority to see whether an article 4 direction applies to their local area.

HMOs of more than six people will still require planning permission.

Use Class C3 Dwellinghouse

Under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) a dwellinghouse is a house which is used by a single household. For most people this will be use by a single family. Care providers should note that this also covers use by up to six people living together as a single household where care is provided. This will include small care homes or children’s homes.

Use Class C4 Small HMO

A new use class was created on 6 April 2010 for houses in multiple occupation. This is where between three and six people are living together in two or more households sharing basic amenities such as the kitchen and the bathroom.

The C4 use class was introduced to allow local authorities more control over problems associated with multi-tenanted houses, such as increased noise, litter and parking problems. However, the new coalition government sees that such a blanket requirement to apply for planning permission for all changes of use from C3 to C4 is costly and time consuming for both landlords and local authorities.

Article 4 Directions

Instead, the assumption will be that no planning permission is required, unless there is an article 4 direction in place in relation to a particular area. Councils can use article 4 directions to control the use of HMOs, in areas where there are high concentrations of HMOs which are having a detrimental impact on the other residents in the area. Please refer to the table below for planning use classes and when planning permission is not required for a change of use.

Planning Use Classes and Permitted Development

Use Classes Order


General Permitted Development (no planning permission required)

A1 Shops Shops, post offices, ticket offices, travel agencies, sandwich bars, hairdressers, funeral directors, showrooms, domestic hire shops, internet cafes  
A2 Financial and Professional Services Banks, building societies, estate agencies, betting offices A2 (where ground floor display window exists) to A1 
A3 Restaurants and Cafes  Sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises e.g. restaurants, snack bars, cafes  A3 to A1
A3 to A2
A4 Drinking Establishments  Pubs, wine bars, drinking establishments A4 to A1
A4 to A2
A4 to A3
A5 Hot Food Takeaways  Sale of hot food for consumption off the premises A5 to A1
A5 to A2
A5 to A3
B1 Business Offices not within A2, research and development, light industrial B1 to B8 (if 235 square
metres or less)
B2 General Industrial Industrial processes going beyond B1 B2 to B1
B2 to B8 (if 235 square
metres or less)
B8 Storage or Distribution Storage and distribution B8 to B1
C1 Hotels Hotels, boarding and guest houses   
C2 Residential Institutions Residential care homes, hospital or nursing homes, boarding schools  
C2A Secure Residential Institutions Prisons, young offenders institutes, detention centres, secure training centres, custody centres, short-term holding centres, secure hospitals, secure local authority accommodation, military barracks  
C3 Dwellinghouses  Use by a single household; use by up to six people living as a single household where care is provided for residents (e.g. small care homes, small children’s homes); use by up to six people living as a single household where no care is provided to residents, including small religious communities’ homes, owneroccupied properties with up to two lodgers

C3 to C4 (from 1 October

(Until 1 October 2010 planning permission is required for change of use from dwellinghouse (C3) to small HMO (C4))

C4 Small HMOs – Houses in Multiple Occupations (HMO) Use by between three and six people living in two or more households sharing amenities such as kitchen, bathroom C4 to C3 (from 6 April 2010)
D1 Non-residential
Doctors’ surgeries, clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, colleges, training centres, art galleries, museums, libraries, public or exhibition halls, places of worship, law courts  
D2 Assembly and Leisure  Cinemas, concert halls, bingo halls, dance halls, swimming baths, skating rinks, gyms  
Sui Generis  Theatres, amusement arcades and fun fairs, launderettes, fuel filling stations, sale of motor vehicles, taxi business or hire car business, scrapyards, hostels, waste disposal installations, nightclubs, casinos, HMOs of more than six people Casino to D2


Relevant Legislation

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 as amended

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 as amended

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