Small Houses in Multiple Occupation

Small HMO Definition

Small houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are properties lived in by between three and six people where facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom are shared. They provide an important and affordable type of accommodation for many city residents, including students. Small HMO's are defined as a C4 use class in the Use Classes Order

Planning Permission for Small HMOs

Planning permission is not normally required to convert a family house into a shared house or HMO for up to 6 people. However, in five wards of the city, the council have introduced an 'Article 4 Direction'  (as of 5 April 2013) which removes permitted development rights. This means that within the following five wards planning permission is required to change the use of a single dwelling house (defined as C3) to a small housing in multiple occupation (C4 use class). 

The Article 4 Direction addresses the impact of concentrations of HMOs such as increased noise and refuse, the proliferation of “To Let” boards, untidy gardens, additional parking demands and changes to local shopping areas.

There is no need to apply for planning permission for properties that were already in Class C4 use within the Article 4 Direction Area before the direction came into effect (5 April 2013). You should seek to secure your own evidence, such as copies of tenancy agreements, to show that the property was in Class C4 use on or before 5 April 2013. You could also apply to the city council for a Certificate of Lawful Use. There would be a fee for this certificate. If you are in any doubt you should seek independent advice.

Making a Planning Application

Planning applications for changes of use to HMO will be determined based upon Council records relating to HMO properties, and by having regard to Policy CP21 of the Brighton and Hove City Plan Part One and policy QD27 of the Brighton and Hove Local Plan.

Please note the following information:

  • Planning applications for change of use can be made online
  • For a change of use application we would expect a site plan and floor plans.
  • There is no fee for this type of application.
  • The rules relating to large HMOs (properties where seven or more unrelated individuals are sharing amenities) have not changed. Where there is a material change to this type of use, planning permission will be required.
  • If you wish to rent your property to seven or more people, you must apply for planning permission. There will be a fee to make this type of planning application.

Determining Planning Applications 

Planning applications for changes of use to an HMO will be determined with consideration of the following information;

The following links provide maps which show existing HMO properties on a street by street basis (as at 2010):

(These maps are indicative areas of high concentration of HMO properties on a street by street basis; they do not however provide definitive up to date information in relation to specific properties.)

Permitted Development Rights for Small HMO's

In January 2014, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) issued advice to its Inspectors and advised that HMOs, both C4 and Sui Generis, that are considered to be a dwelling house, do benefit from permitted development rights. As of 11 March 2014 the Local Planning Authority has adopted this approach.

Where to find out more

The following documents are available to give you more information about the Article 4 direction:

If you have any other questions about the Article 4 Direction or HMOs in general, please contact the Development Control team on (01273) 292222.