21:16 PM, 1st March 2011, About 13 years ago
Oxford law firm Painsmith is suggesting that student landlords should tie planning departments up in red tape to push home their point about councils seeking tougher controls against shared homes.
Property lawyers suggest property investors can grind most council planning departments to a halt by submitting piles of applications for new houses in multiple occupation (HMO) for neighbourhoods subject to article 4 planning approval.
This approval gives council planners micro control over HMO landlords wanting to open new shared houses.
The threat exploits a planning loophole that lets applicants make applications at no cost.
Nevertheless, councils have to spend valuable time and resources investigating every application that can add up to hours of inquiries and administration for every case.
Last year, Housing Minister Grant Shapps overturned blanket planning laws requiring every HMO landlord to apply for permission before letting a property on the grounds the costs outweighed the benefits.
He estimated the move would save unnecessarily investigating 8,500 planning applications a year in England alone.
The rebel suggestion comes from leading landlord and tenant law firm Painsmith.
The firm has represented landlords and letting agents in Oxford in lobbying against the council taking on extra planning powers to micromanage student shared homes – termed houses in multiple occupation or HMOs – in the city.
“It should also be noted that Oxford is not permitted to charge a planning application fee for applications made as a result of an article 4 direction and one possible way of frustrating the proposals is simply for a large number of landlords to make applications thereby tying up resources,” says the Painsmith.
The lawyers also observe taking on article 4 planning powers is probably a waste of time as switching a property from a family home to a shared letting house is not a material change of use that requires planning consent under current law.
They argue that if a large family shares a home, has several vehicles and even if one or more of the occupants is a lodger, the use is no different from three or four students sharing a house.
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