Planning for Houses in Multiple Occupation

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property that is occupied by a number of people who have the use of a bedroom and share the other facilities such as the kitchen, living room and bathroom/toilet. For example properties occupied as shared houses and student houses.

As well as planning regulations, the management of HMO are also subject to other regulations within the council. Guidance on houses in multiple occupation licensing and other regulations for tenants or landlords. You may find it useful to refer to our HMO Licensing questions document: Your questions about HMO Licensing

Changes to the planning system mean that there are now two types of housing in multiple occupation depending upon the number of occupants:

  • A C4 HMO use is defined as housing where between 3 and 6 unrelated people reside and share amenities
  • Larger HMO (with more than 6 people sharing) remain unclassified as ‘sui generis’

A city wide Article 4 Direction relating to houses in multiple occupation (HMO) was adopted in Southampton on 23 March 2012. Article 4 Directions have been available for many years to help control problems arising from works that normally don't require planning permission that can be done under ‘permitted development’.

This direction removes the permitted development rights, meaning that planning permission is now required in order to change the use of a Class C3 dwelling house to a Class C4 HMO where between three and six unrelated people share a kitchen and/or a bathroom. There is no need to apply for planning permission for properties that were already in Class C4 use before 23 March 2012. Frequently Asked Questions - Planning and HMOs provides more detailed information to help you decide if you need planning permission.

The council has recently adopted a revised Supplementary Planning Document on HMO to explain to users of the planning system how the council intends to deal with planning applications for C4 HMO uses. This applies a consistent thresholds citywide, introduces a new policy on 'sandwiching' and clarifies the exceptional circumstances approach.

The Planning Inspectorate has issued guidance to its own Inspectors on the application of permitted development rights granted to dwellinghouses to houses in multiple occupation. The permitted development for HMO document, issued on 15 January 2014, advises that HMO do benefit from Part 1 PD rights, provided the HMO falls within the definition of a dwellinghouse, ie it affords to those who use it as such the facilities required for day-to-day living, and it isn't a building containing one or more flats, or a flat within an HMO.