HMO’s & Certificates of Lawful Development

“What do I do if I don’t have confirmation that either I didn’t require planning permission for my HMO or that the continuous use as a HMO would now be lawful given the timescales involved?”

We are often asked this question…our advice depends on the situation, sometimes a planning application is the only way to regularise a development.  However sometimes it’s a matter of securing a certificate of lawfulness to confirm the use is legitimised and immune from enforcement action.

Often this question arises when someone is in the process of selling a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), our advice get ahead of the situation and secure the use of your property as a HMO in advance,

Are there different types of HMO’s?

There are 2 types of HMO:

  • Small HMO (Class C4) – 3-6 residents
  • Large HMOs (Sui-Generis) – more than 6 residents

For more information take a look at our Practical Guide to HMO’s.

Is Planning Permission required to change the use of property to a HMO?

In general planning permission is not required to change the use of a C3 Dwellinghouse to a C4 HMO as this is permitted development under The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) (the GPDO) permits change of use from a C4 HMO to C3 residential use under Class L.

However, if your property is located in an area where an Article 4 Direction is in place which restricts the change from a C3 dwelling to a C4 HMO, you are likely to require planning permission to change the use of your property.

If you plan to change your property from Class C3 dwelling to a Large HMO accommodating more than 6 residents, you will need to seek planning permission as there are no permitted development rights for change of use from C3 to Sui-Generis HMO.  In general, changing from a C4 HMO to Sui Generis HMO also requires planning permission.

Are there different types of Lawful Development Certificates (LDCs)?

Certificate of Lawfulness Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD)

If you have a property which is a C3 dwellinghouse and you propose to change this to a C4 HMO and there are no restrictions on your property a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development application (a CLOPUD) under Section 192 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) could be sought. The aim is to establish that the proposed use would be lawful by virtue of being permitted development under Schedule 2, Part 3, Class L of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended).

Certificate of Lawfulness for Existing Use or Development (CLEUD)

A Certificate of Lawfulness for Existing Use or Developmenclec (CLEUD) for HMOs is a document that confirms that the use of your property as a HMO is lawful. A LDC can give you peace of mind and protect you from any legal problems.

In what situations can I apply for an LDC for an existing HMO?

In terms of a CLEUD when permission was required and planning permission is not secured in advance.  To secure an LDC, you’ll need to meet certain criteria. Your property must:

  • Be used as a HMO continuously for 10 years;
  • Have at least three tenants;
  • Have two or more households sharing basic facilities.

Once you’ve met these criteria, you can apply for an LDC from your local council. You’ll need to provide evidence to support your application, such as rental agreements, utility bills, and council tax records.

However there have been circumstances where one of our clients changed the use of a C3 dwelling to a C4 HMO in advance of an Article 4 Direction restricting the permitted change of use being adopted.  In that situation you don’t need to prove the use has been established for 10 years, you have to prove (as we did) that the change of use occurred prior to the adoption of the Article 4 Direction.  Take a look at our Planning Success.

There is also the possibility of securing a LDC confirming that a change from C4 HMO to Sui Generis HMO does not amount of a material change of use, however this can be more complex and is very much based on the circumstances of the situation.

What are the benefits of getting an LDC?

There are several benefits to getting an LDC, including:

  • Peace of mind: An LDC will give you peace of mind knowing that your property is being used lawfully.
  • Protection from problems when selling the property: An LDC will provide comfort to perspective purchasers that the use is lawful if you are ever challenged about the use of your property as an HMO.
  • Increased rental potential: An LDC can help you to attract more tenants, as it will show that your property is in compliance with the law.

How do I get an LDC?

To secure an LDC, you will need to apply to your local planning authority. You can find more information about the application process on the website of your local council, or in our Practical Guide to Certificate of Lawfulness for existing uses or development (CLEUD) or Certificate of Lawfulness for a proposed use or development (CLOPUD).

What evidence do I need to provide?

You will need to provide the following evidence to support your application for an LDC:

  • Tenancy agreements, showing continuous use of the property as a HMO;
  • Utility bills;
  • Council tax records;
  • Proof of ownership;
  • Location plan;
  • Photos – Internal photos showing how the property has been divided up into bedrooms and shared facilities for the relevant period;
  • Witness statements – Signed statements from neighbours, friends or family confirming the property has operated as an HMO for the requisite period.
  • Other relevant documents can also help, such as rental income receipts, repair invoices and maintenance logs;
  • Plans of the property, floor plans, or copies of any advertisements or listings that show that the property has been marketed and let as a HMO for the required period of time.

The more evidence you can provide across multiple sources, the stronger your case will be. 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 or before any Article 4 Direction was adopted.

How long does the application process take?

The application process can take up to 8 weeks.  However, the time it takes for a local council to process an application for a certificate of lawfulness for an HMO can vary significantly, depending on several factors:

  • The complexity of the application – More complex cases with a large amount of evidence may take longer to review thoroughly.
  • The council’s workload – Councils with a higher volume of planning applications at any given time may take longer to process each application.
  • Whether a site visit is required – If the council needs to inspect the property in person, this can add some time to the process.
  • Delays due to council resources or staffing issues.

What happens if I am refused an LDC?

If you are refused an LDC, you will be able to appeal the decision. You can find more information about the appeals process in our free eBook Town Planning, The Basics – Appeals.

Related Content

Our Practical Guide Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) is available if you are considered a HMO development.

As well as a Practical Guide for HMO’s we also have one on Certificate of Lawfulness for existing uses or development (CLEUD) and one covering Certificate of Lawfulness for a proposed use or development (CLOPUD).

If you are in need of further assistance with anything related to HMO planning, a Town Planner can provide you with the guidance you need for a smooth transition please feel free to CONTACT US to discuss your situation.