Planning permission for houses in multiple occupation

Planning permission for houses in multiple occupation

A 'House in Multiple Occupation (HMO)' is a house that contains 3 or more unrelated occupants who share basic amenities such as a bathroom and kitchen. Examples include bedsits, shared houses, lodgings and accommodation for workers or employees.

There are around 4,000 licensed HMOs in the Brighton & Hove.

HMOs represent a significant and growing proportion of the mix of housing in the city and make an important contribution to the housing offer. They provide flexible and affordable accommodation for students and residents. 

High concentrations of HMOs can have negative impacts on local communities though. Some issues include more frequent noise nuisance, depopulation of neighbourhoods during academic vacations, and increased pressure on parking. 

City Plan Part 1 policies and Article 4 direction

The purpose of the policies in the City Plan and the Article 4 direction is to continue to provide HMO accommodation to meet the city’s housing needs. It also intends to manage the supply of new HMOs to avoid high concentrations in a particular area.

The Article 4 Direction means that you need planning permission for houses everywhere within the city to change from 'a dwelling house' (Use Class C3) to a 'House in Multiple Occupation' (Use Class C4).

You would not need planning permission to convert a C4 property back to a C3 dwelling. But you would require it to convert back again to an HMO.

You can apply for a dual use l. This allows the property to be either single dwelling (C3) or small HMO (C4) interchangeably without needing further permission. This covers a period of 10 years. The use at the 10-year point then becomes the lawful use, unless you have gotten permission for another planning use. These applications are still subject to the City Plan policies and Article 4 regulations outlined on this page.

Planning permission is always required for HMOs that house 6 or more unrelated occupants.

New policy effective from 20 October 2022

In October 2022 the council adopted City Plan Part Two. As part of this, policy DM7 relates to HMOs. This includes:

  • new builds
  • change of use to C4 use
  • mixed C3/C4 use; and
  • HMOs not falling within any particular use class.

Under policy DM7, we will consider applications where the proposal complies with City Plan Part One Policy CP21. Proposals must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Fewer than 20% of dwellings in the wider neighbourhood area are already in use as HMOs

  2. The proposal does not result in a non-HMO dwelling sandwiched between two HMOs. This applies where the three houses are immediately adjacent to each other – sometimes referred to as 'in a continuous frontage'

  3. The proposal does not lead to a continuous frontage of three or more HMOs immediately adjacent to each other

  4. The internal and private outdoor space standards provided comply with Policy DM1 Housing Quality, Choice and Mix

  5. Communal living space, cooking and bathroom facilities are appropriate in size to the expected number of occupants.

Applications for new build HMOs, and applications for the change of use to a C4 use, a mixed C3/C4 use or to an HMO which does not fall within any particular use class for the purposes of planning permission

HMO concentration in Brighton & Hove map

View the latest map of HMO neighbourhood concentrations in the city.

We update this map annually in October. It shows the number of properties recorded as houses in multiple occupation. It also shows those occupied by full-time students sharing and claiming a council tax discount.

It will help residents and applicants understand HMO concentrations across a cluster of contiguous (immediately adjoining) areas as set out in Policy DM7. The areas we use for this map are the national Census Output areas.

We will assess planning applications will be at this wider neighbourhood level. This is to make sure that existing HMOs do not exceed 20% of all properties across this wider area.

We have produced this map for Article 4 Planning purposes only. It does not include information about HMO licensing, planning permissions or planning enforcement cases.

We carry out more detailed work identifying neighbourhood areas and undertaking street level assessments when we assess planning applications for proposed HMOs.

Instructions for using the map

To enable property information pop up, select the Layer List icon then select Article_4_HMO to expand layers.  Select the 3 dots at the end of the 'HMOs' layer and choose 'enable pop-up.'

Buying or selling an HMO 

You can buy an existing small HMO (Use Class C4) and use it as a single-family dwelling (Use Class C3) without planning permission for a change of use. You may need planning permission for any other alterations that you might want to make to the property. 

If you are buying a larger HMO that has housed 6 or more people to use as a single-family dwelling, you or the vendor will need to apply to the council for change of use. This will take around 8 weeks to determine from receipt of a complete and valid planning application.  You could apply for the change of use as part of an application for other building alterations that would also need planning permission.

Mortgage lenders and solicitors often demand that vendors selling an HMO as a going concern prove that the property is in lawful planning use. You can prove this by applying to the council for a lawful development certificate. 

It takes around 8 weeks to issue a certificate, so we recommend you apply in good time to avoid any conveyancing delays.

The need for a certificate particularly affects smaller Class C4 HMO’s that were already in operation:

This is because these properties could have changed to a Class C4 use prior to these dates without needing to apply for planning permission.

Applying for planning permission or a certificate 

The easiest way to apply and pay for your application is on line using the Planning Portal through our Planning pages

You can find checklists of documentation to submit with your change of use planning application. This will allow you to get a lawful development certificate.

When applying, we recommend that you seek professional advice and help. This should be from a qualified and experienced local architect, surveyor or planning agent. You can find directories of suitable firms on the websites of the RIBA, RICS and RTPI.

Licensing houses in multiple occupation

As well as planning permission, HMOs may also need to be licensed. You can find further information about obtaining a license here.