10 Steps to Securing a Certificate of Lawfulness for Your House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) refers to a property that is divided into separate rental units, typically bedrooms, and shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. It is also known as a house share or shared accommodation.

If you’ve converted a property into an HMO without planning permission (and permission was required) securing a certificate of lawfulness can regularise your HMO. Here’s how to secure a certificate of lawfulness in 10 steps:

  1. Check your timescales. For a Certificate of Lawful Existing Development or Use (CLEUD) ensure your HMO has been operating for at least 10 years. A council will only grant a certificate if an unpermitted HMO has been functioning for a minimum of 10 years.
  2. Gather evidence of its continuous operation. Compile any documents showing the HMO has been operating for the required time, like:
    – Tenancy agreements for multiple tenants;
    – Correspondence with multiple tenants;
    – Secure Witness Statements such as Affidavits or Statements of Declaration from any party who knew the HMO was operational;
    – Utility bills with multiple resident names
    – Other relevant documents can also help, such as rental income receipts, repair invoices and maintenance logs.
  3. Prepare plans of the property. Create layout plans showing how the property is divided into rooms and shared facilities used for your HMO.
  4. HMO Licensing. Have you been issued a HMO license from the Council which could help support your case?
  5. Provide a written planning statement. Explain how your HMO meets the conditions for a certificate – focused around the 10 year operation and refer to your evidence.
  6. Complete the application form and pay any fees. Your council’s planning portal will have details on applying for a certificate of lawfulness and the required documents/fees.
  7. Submit all required documents and evidence. This includes tenancy agreements, utility bills, plans, photos and any other proof of the HMO operating for the minimum period.
  8. Allow time for your council to review the application. The certificate process can take 8-12 weeks as the council verifies that your HMO meets the criteria to be “lawful.”
  9. Obtain your certificate of lawfulness. Once issued, this certificate legally recognises your HMO and protects you from enforcement action, as long as you carry out the development you stated in the application.
  10. Evidence for a proposed HMO. If you propose a C4 HMO from a C3 residential dwelling and want to make sure you can change the use under Permitted Development Rights, check there are no restrictions on your property and set out why you believe you can change the use without any further planning permission.  Ideally refer to the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (as amended).  Steps 6, 8 and 9 also apply in this scenario.

A certificate of lawfulness is a legal document issued by the local planning authority stating that a specific use or operation has been carried out for the required period of time and is now lawful.  Take a look at our

The more evidence you can provide across multiple sources, the stronger your case will be to secure a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD). Your local authority will need clear proof that the property has continuously operated as an unpermitted HMO for at least the minimum 10 year period.  A certificate provides certainty and security for owners, as it protects the HMO use from any future enforcement.

With thorough preparation and evidence, securing a certificate of lawfulness for your HMO is achievable.

Related Content:

Our Practical Guide to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) covers all the town planning basics relating to HMOs.  And our FREE Practical Guides cover the basics of for Certificate of Lawful Proposed Use or Development (CLPUD)  and Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) are available on our website.

You might also find our article about HMO’s & Certificates of Lawful Development useful.

If you are in need of further assistance with anything related to HMOs or lawful development certificates a town planner can provide you with the guidance you need, please feel free to CONTACT US to discuss your situation.

House in Multiple Occupation