Housing minister Grant Shapps has announced that councils will have greater flexibility to manage concentrations of shared housing – known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – in their area.
A high concentration of shared homes can sometimes cause problems, especially if too many properties in one area are let to short-term tenants with little stake in the local community. This has been a problem in some cities with high concentrations of students, for instance.
Changes to existing planning legislation will give councils the freedom to choose areas where landlords must submit a planning application to rent their properties to unrelated tenants.
This will enable high concentrations of HMOs to be controlled where local authorities decide there is a problem, but will prevent landlords across the country being driven from the rental market by high costs and red tape.
The definition of a small HMO (the C4 use class) will remain and permitted development rights will be extended to allow all changes between the C4 and C3 classes without the need for planning applications. In areas where there is a need to control HMO development, local authorities will be able to use an Article 4 direction to remove these permitted development rights and require planning applications for such changes of use.
Shapps said: "Where too many shared homes are causing problems for other residents or changing the character of a neighbourhood, councils should be able to control their spread. But I'm not going to create unnecessary costs for landlords, which puts the supply of rented homes at risk. That's why I'm giving councils the power to decide whether to use the planning system to control the spread of shared housing where it is a problem.”
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "Grant Shapps has taken quick and decisive action after this law was rushed through in April without sufficient clarification. At a time when council resource is scarce and housing is needed it makes no sense to be forcing thousands of local landlords and planning officers to be engaged in unnecessary bureaucracy."
The National Landlords Association has also welcomed the move. Chairman David Salusbury said: "The change in the law for shared housing was rushed. As a result, its implementation by councils has created uncertainty and confusion. We are pleased to see the new government responding to calls to rethink these unnecessary planning burdens on landlords."
17 June 2010