More Planning Issues Related to HMOs

Planning issues in relation to Houses of Multiple Occupation are very much in the news at present.

Planning legislation in the UK responds and reacts to change.

It is essential to understand a little bit of the history of Planning in the UK to fully understand that statement.

It often comes as a surprise to most people that the first real Planning Act in the UK was exactly 100 years ago – The Planning Act 1909. Prior to this act the landed gentry and the major industrial barons pretty much had it their own way in respect of land and its usage.

The ground breaking planning legislation in the UK is embodied within the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 which is the cornerstone for the future acts of 1971 and 1990. This act was most certainly in response to major changes in the UK – the two most obvious changes being

• The Second World War 1939-1945 and impact on the infrastructure of many towns and cities.
• The increasing appearance and reliance on the motor car as a means of transport.

The Second World War left many towns and cities in the UK in ruins – think Clydebank in Scotland, Coventry in the West Midlands, large areas of East End of London and Swansea in Wales.

Many towns and cities similarly saw the requirement to facilitate visitors into their town and city centres by motor car with the increasing network of dual carriageways and motorways. It is indeed ironic to consider that we may have come full circle with many Local Authorities now doing everything in their power to try to keep cars out of their town and city centres.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 reacted to major change and the Socialist Government of the day used that change to effectively nationalise the most valuable resource in the country – land and its future development.

How does this affect us in relation to Houses of Multiple Occupation I hear you ask. Well it is my opinion that we are currently in a period of major change in UK and houses of multiple occupation are very much at the forefront of this change. We have major demographic changes in the UK whether involved with Professional lets, Student lets or Social housing lets the demand for houses of multiple occupation will surely increase.

There represents no classification currently within the Use Classes Order for House of Multiple Occupation and therefore effectively these may be considered in a class of their own. Accordingly planning permission would generally be required prior to a dwelling house undergoing a ‘material change of use’ to a House of Multiple Occupation. The circumstances of each individual case will determine whether there has been a ‘material change of use’. The basis of the Local Authorities decision will be determined by whether they consider the occupants live together as a family or a single household.

Ultimately I see the introduction of clear classification within the Use Classes Order for Houses of Multiple Occupation.

In the near future I see the Local Authorities giving clear and unambiguous guidance re planning permission based on the number of rooms. My own property portfolio spans the UK and I see the start of this already in Scotland with clear and unambiguous statements being issued by the Local Authorities in this respect.

My mentoring throughout the UK has taken me in particular to coastal towns where often I encounter one time holiday properties being used as illegal hostels with dangerous living conditions to say the least. It is encouraging to for all professional landlords to see that these are now being closed down on a regular basis by local authorities. Blackpool Council alone has recently shut down 26 of these illegal houses of multiple occupation with major fines being imposed on the owners of these properties.

As a professional landlord and property investor I look forward to, will prepare for and embrace such changes in planning legislation as and when they arise.