Last week in the Property Go-To Girl blog we discussed what was involved in applying for and getting an HMO license. This week we're looking at a different piece of legislation which could relate to HMOs - an Article 4 Direction.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
This piece of legislation was introduced towards the end of 2010 in essence to allow local authorities to 'protect the character of a Conservation Area or the visual amenities of other areas'. In terms of HMOs it means restricting the number of shared housing in a particular locale (presumably to cut back on the number of students or young people living there and encourage families instead in an effort to cut back on perceived social housing difficulties). Some local authorities allow only 10 per cent of housing in a particular area to be classed as HMOs.
If you're looking at changing a dwelling house to an HMO in an area which is covered by an Article 4 Direction then you'd have to apply for permission - and the chances of getting it depends more or less entirely on how many existing HMOs in the area there already are as well as what affect (if any) your HMO would have on the existing neighbourhood and people living there.
In Oxford an Article 4 Directive came into being in February 2012 and applies to all of the city council's area (Oxford, of course, being unique in that it has a high number of HMOs due to its large student population). Most cities throughout England Wales also have Article 4 Directives.
What type of HMOs does it affect?
The permission relates to what is termed 'small HMOs' ie those where from three to six individuals who aren't related and are sharing kitchen or bathroom facilities. It also covers bedsits and flats. You'll also see HMOs classed as C4 housing whereas dwelling houses are known as C3. Prior to the new legislation only HMOs with six or more individual occupations had to apply for planning permission to convert from house to HMO status.
Who is exempt?
If you already owned a small HMO prior to the council imposing an Article 4 Direction then you aren't affected since it's only those seeking to convert a house to a small HMO that will have to apply for permission. A local authority will, in most circumstances, give a 12 month notice that it intends to introduce the Article 4 Direction. That gives someone considering establishing an HMO the opportunity to apply for planning permission before the cut-of date.
Why is an Article 4 Directive bad for HMO landlords?
Apart from the obvious ie you won't be allowed to have an HMO in a particular area, the price of existing housing in the area may also come down since buyers may have been hoping to launch an HMO themselves. It's also pretty difficult these days to sell such a large properties since families are getting smaller in size.
The lack of a young neighbourhood may also result in a decline in businesses such as cafes, restaurants pubs and even local shops (since young people don't tend to have cars so won't shop in a large supermarket out of town but use local facilities instead).
Can I object to an Article 4 Directive?
It's possible to put in an objection about a potential Article 4 Direction - but it must be within 21 days of the local authority announcing it is going ahead.
Can I still go ahead and apply for permission despite the Article 4 Directive?
Yes, it's still possible and the good news is it won't cost anything (whereas before you would have been looking to shell out hundreds of pounds). Once you've made an application or permission to change you shouldn't expect to have wait more than eight weeks for an answer from your local authority's Planning Dept.
In your application you could argue that your HMO would not affect neighbouring homes, parking wouldn't prove a particular problem and there was room enough for municipal facilities ie bin storage etc.
Having read the above, if you're looking to convert a dwelling house into a small HMO in an area with an Article 4 Directive, then certainly don't lose heart. Planning permission is given if you can prove your case. For more information on the legalities surrounding HMOs take a look at the Property Go-To Girl blog or take a look through our website. Alternatively give our office a call. We'd be happy to pass on our advice.
I'm Jacquie the Property Go-To Girl. I am passionate about property. I love to help people make the most out of their property investments!