I am having problems with planning regulations that make no sense converting HMO from 6 to 8 Beds

by Readers Question

10:54 AM, 12th August 2015
About 3 years ago

I am having problems with planning regulations that make no sense converting HMO from 6 to 8 Beds

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I am having problems with planning regulations that make no sense converting HMO from 6 to 8 Beds

I have a house in E14 (Tower Hamlets, London) currently arranged as 6 beds, 4 bathrooms and a kitchen/living area over 3 floors. It is let to a group of 6 students on a joint tenancy agreement and is a licensed HMO. The property is classified as c4 under permitted development rights.approved

I am considering a loft conversion which would create a 4th floor and add two double bedrooms and a bathroom (the works would fall under permitted development rights). The total floor area would go from approx. 120sqm to 160sqm. The layout below would remain unchanged (other than an extra staircase which would be accommodated on the existing landing). There would now be 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and a kitchen/living room.

I spoke to the planners (Tower Hamlets). They agreed that while the actual works can all take place without planning I would need permission to use it as an 8 bed
HMO – which would involve a change of use from c4 to sui generis. The problem is that sui generis is not ‘residential’ and the development policy of Tower Hamlets is against reducing residential property availability. (Policy DM3 part 5)

The planning laws appear to be sadly lacking. I can create an 8 bedroom house via permitted development but I cannot let it to a group of 8 because the planning class assumes this to be a reduction of available residential property – which is clearly not the case.

Has anyone experienced a similar issue? What argument can I use with planners to allow me to let an 8 bedroom house to 8 people on a joint tenancy agreement? This is not a bedsit and I don’t let room by room.

Will



Comments

matchmade

14:05 PM, 12th August 2015
About 3 years ago

The development policy of Tower Hamlets is the problem, along with this definition that the "sui generis" planning class does not qualify as residential. Try writing formally to Planning, perhaps after securing the support of a borough councillor or two, and ask them to address this anomaly.

Of course there may be no contradiction here at all: Tower Hamlets are not known for being landlord- or HMO-friendly, so maybe they are deliberately blocking sui generis HMO conversions, to prevent an expansion in the local supply of HMOs. Many councils are becoming so hostile to HMOs, they don't want to see any more of them or any increases in size. There may also be some issue such as sui generis HMOs being less easy to license or to cover with a blanket Article 4 Direction.

You should probably also talk with a planning consultant who has experience of such class changes: ask them for their credentials, or look at other "sui generis" conversions in the application listings and see who other people have used as their agents.

eileen grace

14:49 PM, 12th August 2015
About 3 years ago

The private housing officer will be concerned about fire risks. Three floors are a concern for fire evacuation, four would be even more.

Could you consider using the capital to buy a less controversial proposition. Keeping up HMO standards during the building works could be difficult.

If you really wish to develop you must have the private housing enforcement officer on board and bear in mind she may be more amenable than the next person in that post and if the new officer doesn't approve the HMO you may not have a legal challenge.

David Mensah

9:21 AM, 15th August 2015
About 3 years ago

Hi Will,

I had a similar situation with when changing from 6 beds to 7 beds recently.

Found and old (now withdrawn) Nov 2010 circular from DCLG helpful.

>>>
CHANGES TO PLANNING REGULATIONS FOR DWELLINGHOUSES AND HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION

7 ...

Class C4: Houses in multiple occupation (3-6 occupants) – in broad terms, the new C4 class covers small shared houses or flats occupied by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals who share basic amenities.

Large houses in multiple occupation (those with more than 6 people sharing) – these are unclassified by the Use Classes Order. In planning terms they are described as being sui generis (of their own kind). In consequence, a planning application will be required for a change of use from a dwelllinghouse to a large house in multiple occupation or from a Class C4 house in multiple occupation to a large house in multiple occupation where a material change of use is considered to have taken place. Paragraph 17 of Annex A to this circular provides further guidance on this.

....

17. Although the control limit of six persons defines the scope of the C3 (b) and (c) dwellinghouses and C4 houses in multiple occupation classes, this does not imply that any excess of that number must constitute a breach of planning control. A material change of use will occur only where the total number of residents has increased to the point where it can be said that the use has intensified so as to become of a different character or the residents in relation to C3 no longer constitute a single household.
<<<

So the question is: is this a material change of use?
In your case I would argue no.

You'd need a planning expert to tell you whether there has been a substantial change to the policy since that 2010 circular, but I doubt it.


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