Trafford Council have brought in an “emergency” ban on permitted development in the region to prevent an overabundance of HMOs in the area, but what are landlords’ options when converting their properties for multiple occupation?
The council introduced the borough-wide ban – an Article 4 direction – on permitted development as a way of controlling the location and number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) to “minimise any potential adverse effects on the local housing market” that could come from the high numbers of students potentially arriving at the proposed University Academy 92.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is opposing the ban, as it believes the legislation does not deal with the existing HMOs, and could cause the quality of the properties available to decrease. It states: “Once the quality of an area has started to decrease due to a high presence of HMOs, an Article 4 restriction is already too little too late.”
How does permitted development affect landlords?
In most areas across the UK, converting a normal, family home into one that is rented out to three or more unrelated people – which qualifies as an HMO – would signify a material change of use, which technically requires planning permission.
However, since October 2010, in England, this requirement has been offset by permitted development rights, meaning that properties can be changed from class 3 (family dwelling) to class 4 (HMO) without the need for permission.
Permitted development rights in general enable homeowners to improve or extend their properties without having to apply for planning permission “where that would be out of proportion with the impact of works carried out”. This has caused controversy recently as it has allowed developers to convert offices into residential flats without needing to go through the same processes as they would have to with other developments.
What is Article 4?
As is the case in the Trafford district, a local authority can impose an Article 4 direction, which removes permitted development rights in the area. This means that those wanting to convert a property for use as an HMO would need to apply for permission to make the change, and this can now result in a fee of £462 to be paid to the council.
The application for change of material use can still be rejected, because an Article 4 direction is often put in place when the local authority wants to restrict the number of HMOs in an area – often due to oversaturation.
According to the National Landlords Association (NLA), the fact that councils can now charge a fee if an Article 4 direction is in place could mean that local authorities might be incentivised to remove permitted development in order to gather more fees.
The association said: “The likely impact of the policy will be a further entrenchment of those properties that are already in shared usage; as if a landlord wishes to change the use where permitted development has been removed, even for a short period, and then convert back a fee will be applicable.”