HMO landlords wait for article 4 test case

by Property118.com News Team

15:10 PM, 21st March 2012
About 7 years ago

HMO landlords wait for article 4 test case

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HMO landlords wait for article 4 test case

As councils across the country ramp up their campaign against student landlords and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), the Residential Landlords Association and leading property solicitors claim tougher planning rules may not prove to be the answer to controlling shared homes.

The issue is a technical problem that may not be settled until a council rejects a planning application for a small HMO and the landlord takes the matter to appeal in front of a planning inspector.

The law is simple – a council can apply for an article 4 direction that requires a property owner switching the change of use of a home from a single unit to one shared by three to five unrelated occupants.

Larger HMOs for six or more tenants already need to apply for planning permission.

According to the Residential Landlords Association, switching planning use from a residential property (Class C3) to a small HMO (Class 4) only needs planning permission if the change involves a ‘material change of use.’

The problem with the law is what constitutes a material change is subjective and each planning case is considered on its own merits.

Property lawyers argue that changing from a family home that has two or three teenagers with all the noise, activity and traffic that goes with it is no different from a small HMO with three or four students or singles living in bedsit rooms and represents no material change.

“If a change occurs but it is not material then planning permission is not required,” says the RLA.

“Case law establishes whether there is a material change of use is a question of fact and degree but the fact that, in the broadest sense, the property continues to be used for residential purposes does not mean that there could not have been a material change of use.

“Generally, it is a matter for planning inspectors ultimately, rather than the courts. A decision on materiality is unlikely to be susceptible to a successful challenge in Court unless it can be said that there was no reasonable tribunal properly directing itself as to the law could come to that conclusion.”



Comments

Lynne Davis

10:12 AM, 27th March 2012
About 7 years ago

"The law is simple – a council can apply for an article 4 direction that
requires a property owner switching the change of use of a home from a
single unit to one shared by three to five unrelated occupants." - shouldn't this end in "to apply for planning permission"?

Michael Holmes

19:56 PM, 5th April 2012
About 7 years ago

On the face of it, there is no material change of use.  However, my local authority classes HMOs as having x number of households in any one building based on the premise that a household is made up of 1 tenant in one room, so, using that criteria, there is a material change of use because a family home consists of 1 household, whilst a HMO will have at least 4 households, possibly more.  Needless to say, this is complete codswallop, but that is where we are in this country. Common sense plays no part in any of these decisions. You have to bear in mind that 90% of planning inspectors are ex planning officers, they all swim in the same pond and it would take a very brave one indeed to break ranks and make a sensible decision. 


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