New rules for HMO properties
As announced earlier this year (and reported by me here) the government has now changed the planning rules to require all HMO properties to get planning permission. These new rules came into force yesterday (6 April 2010). This brings the definition of HMO for the purposes of planning into line with those used in the Housing Act 2004.
The new rules do not, we are told, apply to existing HMO properties. However, in future all properties with three or more unrelated people sharing, will require planning consent.
I am not a planning lawyer, so am not really qualified to comment on the details of the legislation. This has been reported elsewhere, for example on the PainSmith solicitors blog. There is also a guide on the Guild of Residential Landlords blog and you can find out more about the planning process generally from a helpful web-site planning-applications.co.uk.
However most of the reports I have read say that this will have a massive impact, that many landlords will withdraw altogether from providing HMO style accommodation (which will now include common situations such as three nurses sharing a flat), and that people who traditionally share accommodation with others, such as students, recent immigrants and young professionals, will find it increasingly hard to find somewhere to live.
Councils may also find it difficult to deal with the extra work involved. Indeed it is reported that even without the impact of this, legislation is being enforced inconsistently across the country by Local Authorities. Steve Sims who runs a web-site called Property Investment Expert has written about this, and also claims to have found evidence from a CLG document about a secret database on landlords:
Also revealed is information about a confidential database maintained by an unnamed London council that rates shared housing owners as “good, bad or average” landlords – and landlords have no right of redress or access to what the database says about them.
No doubt a freedom of information request will bring forth more information.
It will be interesting to see however, whether these regulations, rushed through in haste just before an election, really will help the ‘studentification’ problems (which are apparently quite severe in some locations), or whether it will just result in less affordable HMO accommodation being available for people on limited means.