HMO additional information 2016 – commenting on planning issues


The Council can only take certain matters into account when considering your comments on a planning application.
Issues that can be taken into account:
• The proposal complies with the Council’s planning policies
• A proposed use is suitable for the area
• The appearance and size of a new building is appropriate
• External alterations to an existing building are in character
• Adjoining residents will suffer overshadowing, overlooking or loss of privacy
• There will be any increase in noise and disturbance, e.g. from the comings and goings of extra traffic
• New buildings have satisfactory access for disabled people
• New roadways and accesses will be safe for pedestrians and other road users
• A proposed sign is too large or unsightly
• The works are in keeping with a listed building
Issues that cannot be taken into account include:
• Loss of view
• Boundary and other disputes between neighbours
• Loss of trade from competing businesses
• Loss of property value
• Private legal covenants
Please note:
The Council will approve an application unless there are good planning reasons to refuse it. Conditions may be attached to a consent to cover points which may be of concern, or the applicant may be prepared to amend the plans to overcome such concerns.

Planning Permission for 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 this “permitted development” right. 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 – 3-6 unrelated individuals).

  • Hanover and Elm Grove
  • Hollingdean and Stanmer,
  • Moulsecoomb and Bevendean,
  • Queen’s Park and;
  • St. Peters and North Laine.

Properties which were already in use as HMOs before 5th April 2013 do not need planning permission as the use would be established. A landlord should be able to provide some indication of that use to demonstrate that planning permission is not needed. In planning law the burden of proof is firmly upon the landlord to demonstrate this. Evidence may consist of signed tenancy agreements, invoices, sworn affidavits or other legal documents indicative of the use as an HMO. If the landlord cannot do this, they should consider that permission is required and apply for planning permission.
To check if planning permission has been applied for and the results of any applications, the planning applications register is available through the planning pages of the Council’s website or here:

One of the criteria used to decide whether to grant planning permission is how many other HMOs already operate in the area. If the percentage of HMOs within a 50m radius of the property is above 10%, planning permission will normally be refused. In some parts of the Lewes Road area, the percentage is lower than this but in other areas it is considerably higher.
The Council has the power to issue an enforcement notice even if planning permission has not been applied for, if it is confident that planning permission would be refused. A planning enforcement notice may also be issued if planning permission is refused but the property continues to be used as an HMO.

A list of enforcement notices can be found on the enforcement register on Council’s website:
Landlords and property owners have the right to appeal planning decisions and enforcement notices with the Planning Inspectorate, a national body.

If an appeal against an enforcement notice is dismissed the enforcement notice will then come into effect and upon expiration the tenant/s will have to vacate the property as the landlord will be committing a criminal offence should the property continue to be in use as an HMO. It is the owner of the property who would be prosecuted for this offence. It is therefore important to ensure all necessary planning consents are obtained prior to the letting of a property as an HMO

  • these notes were issued by the HMO working group chaired by Tracey Hill May 2016