What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan
Leeds HMO Lobby
Use Classes Order
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
Householder Development Consents
The Householder Development Consents Review was announced by the
Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, on 24 January 2005. It will
examine the current requirements of the regulatory regimes for minor
developments by householders such as house extensions, fencing,
ancillary buildings, tree felling and pruning. Information is available
on the HDCR
page of the ODPM website.
The National HMO Lobby has responded as follows.
Response to Householder Development Consents
1 National HMO Lobby
The National HMO Lobby is an association of some three dozen community
groups (some of which are federations themselves) in two dozen towns
throughout the UK, who are concerned about the impact of concentrations
of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) on our communities. We were
formally established last year, but we have been campaigning as
an informal network since 2000. Information about the Lobby is available
on our website.
The members of our member groups are of course themselves householders.
As such they have mixed feelings about the proposals to ‘cut
red tape’ for householder developments.
2.1 On the one hand, many have experienced frustration
with the present regime. “I believe that the proposals might
well benefit those who are not only the householders but also the
occupiers, so as to accommodate those who have owned and lived in
a house for at least 3-4 years and hope to continue there for the
next 3-4 years making it home and not house improvement” [Coleraine].
Again, “as a resident I fully appreciate that people may well
get fed up with having to fill in lots of forms and go through all
the hoops in order to get planning permission for an extension,
or whatever ... I still find the hair on the back of my neck going
up when I recall the fuss the Council made when I said I want a
fence at the front of the property (on top of my wall) in order
to keep out students, litter, vandals, etc.” [Nottingham].
2.2 On the other hand, many nevertheless have reservations.
“We have years of experience of looking at householder applications
and many of them are dire - often made by draughtspersons working
for PVC window makers and loft conversion companies ... these apparently
trivial design decisions have, cumulatively, a considerable effect
on the overall visual quality of urban residential areas. They may
be small scale but they are 'in your face' to residents. Rear extensions,
first floor roof terraces, large dormers etc, all can damage privacy
of neighbours” [Bristol].
2.3 The consensus is that controls are essential.
“As a resident, I don't want to find that my next door neighbour
can get away with doing something without my knowing and having
a fair chance at stopping him if what he proposes is not to my liking”
3 Houses in Multiple Occupation
The Lobby’s primary concern however is the implications for
HMOs. And here we are unanimous.
3.1 First of all, a distinction needs to be made
between genuine householders, and landlords who rent houses as a
business. “The immediate thing that leaps out at me is that
I cannot find anywhere a good definition of 'householder' ... As
far as I can see currently there is no separation between those
who run residential accommodation as a business, i.e. landlord,
hostel owner etc. and those who are owner occupiers ... It seems
to me a little premature to 'relax' some of the current planning
development controls when we are not sure exactly who we are relaxing
them for?” [Loughborough].
3.2 Secondly, without appropriate controls, relaxation
will only exacerbate the proliferation of HMOs. “From my very
current experience with planning legislation and how it is affecting
both ourselves, as residents, and Council officers as people trying
to implement the Council's new policies, I think the last thing
we want is a relaxation of the planning system so that landlords
get an even easier run than they do now” [Nottingham]. “A
property could be converted prior to HMO letting by the owner occupier
to make it a more attractive sale to a landlord” [Birmingham].
“The problem we already have with Permitted Development Rights
is that houses can be subdivided internally and extended, and front
gardens concreted etc, without needing consent. Then often they
become student HMO's!” [Bristol]. “It strikes me that
in areas where maximising property occupancy is an obvious activity
(eg HMO dominated areas) this [relaxation] could be far from beneficial
– in that you could extend properties in ways that sought
to prevent them becoming HMOs under the new definition (retain the
number of storeys) – this would have significant negative
impact on local amenity value (eg loss of gardens) which was what
planning was supposed to be about protecting” [Nottingham].
3.3 Consequently, the problems generated by concentrations
of HMOs are only likely to increase if development controls are
relaxed. “Making loft extensions easier has one up-side. It
usually puts HMO's into mandatory licensing. But, on balance the
costs to the community are far higher - increased parking, poor
visual amenity, higher student density, greater strain on local
environment etc. The proposal does not make it a better place for
either students or longer term residents” [Birmingham]. “The
reality of such situations is that areas most at risk, often need
the most protection by local or national government, because areas
with long established articulate populations are often best at marshalling
the arguments for protection – when those interest groups
desert an area, the mindset that ‘it doesn’t matter
what happens around there because no one cares’ is adopted
by local people AND local public servants, although the latter would
never admit it!” [Nottingham].
4.1 The National HMO Lobby does not support relaxation
of householder development consents. “We have noticed a considerable
increase in number of 'improvements' both with and without consent.
This is because the boom in house values is funding it ... There
may well be simpler ways of administering householder applications
but our experience suggests that reducing scope of control is not
justified. And maybe should be increased in Conservation Areas?”
[Bristol]. “I guess what I'm saying is that I see no great
merit in the idea, either as a resident in a 'normal' neighbourhood,
or even more so, as a resident in a neighbourhood where studentification
is rife” [Nottingham].
4.2 Certainly, the Lobby is adamant that relaxation
should not be countenanced in the case of HMOs. “We would
suggest putting a requirement for special consent for commercial
letting purposes” [Birmingham]. The Lobby proposes a number
of possible measures.
4.2.1 Most effective would be a distinction in
planning law between a family home and a house in multiple occupation.
We find it unfortunate in the extreme that we now have an adequate
definition of HMO in housing law (in the Housing Act 2004) –
but there is no matching planning definition. We regret that the
Use Classes Order has recently been amended, and the opportunity
was not taken to clarify the legal situation. (Indeed, only Northern
Ireland in the UK has a common housing and planning definition of
HMO.) Our principal recommendation is that family homes and HMOs
are clearly distinguished, and the latter are excluded from any
relaxation of development control which may be considered.
4.2.2 If this measure is not accepted, then the
National HMO Lobby recommends that local planning authorities be
enabled to designate areas, such as areas of concentrations of HMOs,
which are excluded from any relaxation of development control. “It
may be that in the spirit of the ‘new localism’ mentioned
in the brief, they might give local authorities powers to designate
areas where exemptions from permission could not apply” [Nottingham].
4.2.3 Finally, as a last resort, as it were, if
all else fails, the National HMO Lobby recommends that development
controls remain in place for all properties licensed under the provisions
of the Housing Act 2004, including mandatory HMO licensing, additional
HMO licensing, and selective licensing.
The National HMO Lobby therefore supports any measures to make applications
for minor developments easier to use. But the Lobby has concerns
about any general relaxation of development control. And the Lobby
certainly opposes specifically any relaxation in the case of houses
in multiple occupation. The Lobby would be pleased to receive notification
of the outcome of the Householder Development Consents Review.
Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby, May 2005
Note: The DCLG (formerly ODPM)
Steering Group for the Householder Development Consents Review published
its Report in July 2006 The National HMO Lobby's submission is acknowledged
in Annex 3. Our recommendation was: "The National HMO Lobby
supports any measures to make applications for minor developments
easier to use. But the Lobby has concerns about any general relaxation
of development control. And the Lobby certainly opposes specifically
any relaxation in the case of houses in multiple occupation."
But the Report makes no reference whatsoever to HMOs.
National HMO Lobby