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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    HMO Planning Permission Clarification

    I have a couple of 4 bed BTL's both rented to unrelated working professionals. Thus far the council have only got around to bothering me about one of them and I have consequently had to start making alterations to adhere to their shared occupancy policies. Some questions:

     

    1. In order to avoid having to apply for planning permission do I need to declare the second house as being shared occupancy before the new HMO planning permission regulations come into force or do I just need to prove, when asked, that the house has been been in use as a shared occupancy since before the regulations came into force?

     

    2. I have another property which has the potential to be a 5 bed HMO, but isn't yet because I live in it. I had intended at some point in the next 3-5 years to move elsewhere and rent it out as an HMO.

     

    Having only very recently heard about the new HMO regulations about to become law I am wondering whether the most profitable approach would be to apply for an HMO license now and take the hit on the initial license fee plus annual renewals on the basis that when I do eventually rent it as an HMO the returns will reward this forethought. My questions are i) would there be any issues around the property being licensed as an HMO for several years whilst not actually being used as one (I can't see why there would) and ii) do I need to have applied for a HMO license when the new regs come into force or to actually hold the license at that point?

     

     

    A third question on a slightly different tangent, the local council (Swindon) are insisting that I need emergency lighting and have cited the LACORS fire safety guidelines which state that emergency lighting is required if the escape route is long or complex and if there is insufficient borrowed light. I have argued that there is sufficient borrowed light because there are 4 windows along the escape route and that although it is 3 storeys it is neither long nor complex (its involves a staircase, a landing and another staircase which ends at the front door).

     

    The council have responded that because it is 3 storeys it is more complex that a 2 storey house I do need emergency lighting. I do not see this logic as I am sure there are plenty of 2 storey houses with longer and more complex escape routes than mine and the borrowed light is abundant anyway. Does anyone have any experience of arguing cases of this type? I am intending to stand my ground on the basis that the council beaurocrat is just being a jobsworth and making unreasonable demands. Moreover the Fire Protection Officer at my local fire station has said that I don't need emergency lighting. Am I likely to win this if I stand my ground, or am I likely to end up with an enforcement order and some kind of fine?

     

    Thanks,

     

    Rupert

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    The requirements for planning permission will be spelt out when the law is put in place, so I reckon for now, the guidelines are guesswork! I wouldn't have thought the PP requirement would be made retrospective.
    1. Probably best declare the house now as a shared occupancy house, then its known for council records.
    2. If you apply for a licence now for the 5-bed, 3-storey, the licence will only be granted after you have completed the works and the council is satisfied with it. Unless there is a licence, there are no renewal fees to pay. You will probably need to find out from the local authority if there is a time limit on the process from application to licence-grant. Maybe not. There are no issues with using a converted HMO property as a SFH, as long as you adhere to renewal guidelines.
    However, bear in mind if works aren't started for a while, you might find yourself caught by the new PP laws, depending on the conditions - and those aren't known yet. It may be that the conversions that aren't completed may be subject to PP applications. Or even now, it may be that LAs will now direct all HMO applicants to make PP permissions. Just don't know, but the LA should be able to shed some light on their procedure.
    On the matter of emergency lighting, I know LAs are quite strict on this for 3storey licensable properties (its call CYA). Perhaps a written statement from the Fire Safety Officer might help fight your case - afterall the fire officer is a safety professional and the council officer is not.
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    The profit of knowledge is in its application
    TumiHawkins.com
    Thanks Tumi and Jo, I'll speak to the local authority to get their input about zoning etc.
    Cheers,
    Rupert
    Jocelyn King said:
    Rupert & TumiThe changes to the legislation are not retrospective but this subject has been discussed on a seperate thread - what if the owner wants to establish the status to protect themselves in future? Also a question being asked continually of the Planning depts I am told and I'm not sure the answer is clear yet. Declaring it to the council is one thing but proving it to the conveyancing solicitor of a possible purchaser of your property in the long term future is something else - Solicitors understandably like 'Certificates of Lawful Use'.Rupert: There should be a 'Zoning' document produced by each council to identify areas where there will be no further HMO's permitted. If the property you have is not in one of those Zones I personally would wait to apply for Planning Permission until you need it as you'll probably get it anyway and certainly could argue your case. If your property is within the zoning area you are unlikely to get permission and will have wasted your time & money plus established a refusal against your property which might not do you any favours. Of course you could appeal and for my money's worth I think the Councils are going to come unstuck on cases that go to appeal as I personally think the legislation is skating on very thin ice.One thing worth noting - the zoning that Councils have carried out with regard to HMO restrictions is not a legal document so will it just be a matter of time before this is challenged in the courts?JoTumi Hawkins said:
    The requirements for planning permission will be spelt out when the law is put in place, so I reckon for now, the guidelines are guesswork! I wouldn't have thought the PP requirement would be made retrospective.1. Probably best declare the house now as a shared occupancy house, then its known for council records.2. If you apply for a licence now for the 5-bed, 3-storey, the licence will only be granted after you have completed the works and the council is satisfied with it. Unless there is a licence, there are no renewal fees to pay. You will probably need to find out from the local authority if there is a time limit on the process from application to licence-grant. Maybe not. There are no issues with using a converted HMO property as a SFH, as long as you adhere to renewal guidelines.However, bear in mind if works aren't started for a while, you might find yourself caught by the new PP laws, depending on the conditions - and those aren't known yet. It may be that the conversions that aren't completed may be subject to PP applications. Or even now, it may be that LAs will now direct all HMO applicants to make PP permissions. Just don't know, but the LA should be able to shed some light on their procedure.On the matter of emergency lighting, I know LAs are quite strict on this for 3storey licensable properties (its call CYA). Perhaps a written statement from the Fire Safety Officer might help fight your case - afterall the fire officer is a safety professional and the council officer is not.
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