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HMOs, Flats and Planning Enforcement

Planning consultant David Kemp BSc (Hons) MRICS Barrister* (*non-practising) and Director at DRK Planning Ltd, comments

The degree to which kitchen and cooking facilities are allowed in HMOs can often cause considerable confusion among developers. This can arise mainly due to an overlap between Planning and Housing licensing regimes. As a result, it is not unusual for developers to inadvertently find they are under investigation from the Council’s Planning Enforcement Team for converting a property into flats that do not meet with national space standards.

In this article, we look back on a recent case with one of our clients, how the problem arose, and how this was resolved.

‘Self-contained’ HMO rooms
The heading above is a little tongue-in-cheek. You cannot have an HMO room which is self-contained (i.e., a bed, cooking facilities, bathroom and WC). This would be a flat in Use Class C3. An HMO would be in Use Class C4 or, if there are more than 6 bedspaces in the property, within Sui Generis (a miscellaneous category outside the other use classes).

Our client sought to maximise the occupancy in his house, with the benefit of extensions to the property. These extensions were carried out lawfully under permitted development long before we were involved, many years ago, whilst the property was still in use as a single dwelling house.

However, instead of seeking the advice of a planning consultant before sub-dividing the property, he asked his builder. I don’t know many planning consultants who feel confident about advising a client how to construct a wall or lay services through a building, yet I often find non-planners giving advice on planning policy, strategy or law. The builder had sought advice from the Housing licensing team on the proposed layout of nine separate rooms, each with their own kitchen and hobs, and bathrooms and WCs. The licensing team looked at the plans with regard to the application of the Housing Acts, not in terms of planning legislation. They confirmed that the plans were acceptable and the builder proceeded with the works.

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