Fuller Long has obtained planning permission on behalf of a client for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Luton. Our client approached us requiring a change of use from a C4 HMO to a ‘larger’ HMO (a Sui Generis use). The property comprised of six rooms that were used as separate bedroom accommodation and a main communal kitchen and living area on the ground floor, and a further smaller communal area on the first floor. The proposal submitted by Fuller Long sought to replace the smaller first floor communal area with a room for accommodation, thereby increasing the number of available rooms and potential occupiers to seven.

Fuller Long argued that although the increase in the number of rooms constituted a material change in use in planning law, the increase from six to seven residents would not result in an unacceptable intensification of the use or an overdevelopment of the site. Additionally, the client carried out active management of the premises, including frequent visits and had installed CCTV prior to applying for planning permission which provided further comfort to the Council.

Planning identifies two types of HMOs because it recognises that larger ones can have an adverse impact on such issues as amenities and living conditions. When assessing the impact of the neighbouring properties, Fuller Long noted that both adjoining buildings to the property in question had been subdivided into flats. Further, the additional room was set to the rear of the property at first floor level, away from the neighbouring property. No concerns had been raised about noise or disturbance from the existing arrangement, and where this arrangement had existed elsewhere in the area, there were no complaints regarding noise or disturbance.

Fuller Long noted that the property was already subject to a licence for seven occupiers, and given the weight for the emerging local plan at the time, the increase in the number of rooms was acceptable. It was therefore requested that planning permission was granted for the proposal, and if there was concern about any increase in the future number of residents, then the applicant was willing to accept a Condition that restricted the number of permanent occupiers to seven. In doing so, Fuller Long were able to gain permission for the change of use.

The rise in HMO popularity

HMOs have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Some argue that is a result of the current lack of affordable housing and soaring rent prices in London that is in turn pushing people off the property ladder before they can even get on it. Statistics from Rightmove reflect this contention. London tops house prices nationally with an overall average house price of £609,776, more expensive than nearby South East with £386,60, East of England with £323,426 and East Midlands with £198,520. Statistics also show that the priciest area within London was Central London at a whopping average house price of £1,678,743 and the least expensive in East London at £453,148. These numbers are particularly staggering when we take into account that just three years ago the average house price in London was £523,726.

The reason for this growth in house prices? Population amongst other factors are seen as a major contributor to the exponential growth in house prices over the past few years. Cityam reports that despite some recent decline in immigration following the Brexit vote, London’s population continues to rise faster than any other part of the UK according to the latest ONS estimates. This in turn has driven investment into infrastructure, and thus, has led to an increase in demand and an increase in house prices. Statistics show that house values in London are almost 45 percent higher than they were five years ago. A skilled service worker would need to work almost 16 years to buy a 650-square-foot apartment near the city center. Conversely, data shows that although the most expensive place to rent a room in a HMO is Central London, where the weekly cost is an average £207, this is nowhere near the cost of renting or buying a property in London. With these statistics in mind it’s not hard to see why HMOs are becoming a popular option for many young professionals and even older working professionals.

To discuss a planning issue in regards to a change of use application with one of our experienced team of consultants, please call us on 0808 164 1288 for a no obligation conversation or email us at hello@fullerlong.com