Published 07/04/2023

Did you know you can alter and extend your HMO without planning permission?

What is householder permitted development?

It’s long been the case that occupants of “normal” houses (that’s your typical terraced, semi-detached and detached homes) have the right to carry out certain alterations to their properties without any need to apply for planning permission.

Those alterations are known as “householder permitted developments” and include all of the following:

  • side and rear extensions
  • front porches
  • dormer windows
  • rooflights
  • outbuildings (garages, sheds, swimming pools etc.).

There are still certain rules that must be followed in each case, including rules restricting the size, height and position of new extensions. There are also some other restrictions. For example, listed buildings do not have the right to construct outbuildings.

Click the link below to find out more about householder permitted development, such as the main rules and restrictions.

What residential properties are excluded?

Flats have always been excluded from householder permitted development rights and, for a long time, it was thought that HMOs – Houses in Multiple Occupation – were excluded too.

Whilst that didn’t necessarily prevent you from extending or altering your flat or HMO, it did mean you were first required to seek and secure planning permission. Making an application for planning permission is a costly process and it’s never guaranteed that your local council will grant consent.

However, a recent 2022 High Court case – the Brent case has changed this. Whilst flats remain excluded, the High Court has confirmed that HMOs benefit from all of the same permitted development rights as “normal” houses.

What’s changed?

Nothing has actually changed in the rules or legislation. All that has changed is the Courts have now provided a clear interpretation of the rules. Their interpretation is this:

  • Householder permitted development rights apply to all “dwellinghouses” with the exception of flats
  • A HMO is defined like this: “a dwellinghouse used as a House in Multiple Occupation”
  • Therefore, HMOs are “dwellinghouses” and have householder permitted development rights.

All local councils are obliged to listen to the Courts so this recent case should have national effect.

What does this actually mean?

If you own a HMO, it means you will likely be able to make certain changes to your property without any need to apply for planning permission first.

This is great news for both owners and occupiers of HMOs as improvements to their properties can now be undertaken much more easily and at much less cost.

The sorts of changes that can normally be made to HMOs without planning permission include:

  • new and replacement doors and windows
  • ground floor rear extensions
  • first floor rear extensions
  • single-storey side extensions
  • loft conversions
  • dormer windows
  • rooflights
  • porches
  • outbuildings (including garages and sheds)
  • hard surfaces (including driveways and patios)
  • chimneys and flues.

However, there are still rules that must be followed in each case. The government has published some guidance on these rules which you can access by following the link below.

Are there any risks or exceptions?

Don’t risk it! Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate

Although you don’t need planning permission if your alteration is a “permitted development”, we recommend that you still apply for a Lawful Development Certificate before you start work. This is a relatively straightforward, speedy and inexpensive process.

Moreover, a Lawful Development Certificate will provide formal confirmation that the works are definitely “permitted development”.

The reason we recommend a Lawful Development Certificate is because permitted development rules are not always easy to understand or apply. For example, measurements can get complicated if the site is sloping or its layout is unusual. Even a very minor measuring error could mean your extension or alteration is not permitted development after all. Whenever in doubt, you should apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. Your application should be made before you start works.

Click the link below to find out more:

Check the rules!

It’s also worth being aware that not all sites have all permitted development rights. For example:

  • listed buildings do not have the right to construct outbuildings; and
  • sites in Conservation Areas and AONBs do not have the right to construct side extensions or first floor rear extensions.

You must always check the rules carefully as they include many restrictions and exceptions.

Watch out for local restrictions!

In addition, local councils have powers to restrict or remove permitted development rights in their area. This is especially common in Conservation Areas. Some local councils publish details of the restrictions – named “Article 4 Directions” – on their websites but not all.

Find out more about Article 4 Directions here:

If you wish to alter and extend your HMO without planning permission, contact Planning Direct today. Our initial advice is always free of charge.

We can also help you to secure permission for a brand new HMO, whether that’s a new build or a conversion.

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