You may well be under the assumption that if there is no article 4 in the area then you can convert a Property into a HMO. However it's not always that simple...
There are two categories of HMO:
Class C4: Small shared property housing 3-6 unrelated people as their main residence.
Class Sui Generis: Larger HMO's defined as housing 7 or more unrelated people as their main residence.
Class C4 = Does not usually require full planning and the conversion from a single house C3 to C4 would fall under 'permitted development' in most cases.
Class Sui Generis = Would require the need for full planning permission.
Article 4 Directive in Operation in Area?
This means the local authority has the right to restrict some types of 'Permitted Development' The local authority can if they wish restrict the number of HMOs within an area to prevent changing the demographic and character of what may have been historically a single family residential area. Most local authority websites will provide the information on where the article 4 is in operation (it's not usually a whole city or town, it can just be a few streets!)
How Do You Know If You Need Planning?
Quite simply always, always speak with the local planning office and ask the question, prior to carrying out any works. It is worth noting there have been instances of HMO licenses being granted on properties, that actually did not apply for planning when they should have... yet they have been granted a HMO licence!
This is somewhat confusing but the simple facts are that the HMO Licensing department do not liaise with the local planning department as they operate under different guidelines.
Think of it this way... a HMO Licence is predominantly to ensure you are a fit and proper landlord and that the property meets size guidelines, facility guidelines and health and safety guidelines and is fit for it's purpose as a HMO.
Planning on the other hand dictates if you can change the usage of a property and also to what degree it can be changed.
Ultimately the best thing anybody can do is to speak with the local planning office before you let your builder start tearing a house to bits and making changes. Never just assume that changing a property into a HMO is under permitted development even if all the legislation points to that being the case. Always ask the question to clarify.
What Happens If You Failed to Get Planning?
Ooops, It's a horrible sinking feeling but all you can do in this instance is explain to the local planning office, that you made a mistake. Then ask for a retrospective decision on planning for your property. There is the risk however, that they will not grant planning to you and in that case you will have no option but to return the property back to a single dwelling.
Don't Forget About Building Regs!
If your changing a property from a single dwelling to a HMO there is the possibility of an increased risk of fire and potentially compromised escape routes. A building inspector will tell you what is required in terms of doors and windows being able to aid an escape in case of fire etc. - It's good to have one visit and to get their opinion based on what you plan to do with the property.
Never Assume Anything
You may think your builder takes care of it all, but it's your responsibility. The builder takes care of one thing.... the works you pay them for. Never assume it is all in hand. Be aware of all legislations when converting properties and make sure you get the green lights before spending money on a project.
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