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Power for councils to manage shared homes in their area

Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced that councils will have greater flexibility to manage concentrations of shared housing in their…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced that councils will have greater flexibility to manage concentrations of shared housing in their area, without tying landlords in red tape.

A high concentration of shared homes can sometimes cause problems, especially if too many properties in one area are let to short term tenants with little stake in the local community.

So changes to legislation will give councils the freedom to choose areas where landlords must submit a planning application to rent their properties to unrelated tenants - known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

This will enable high concentrations of HMOs to be controlled where local authorities decide there is a problem, but will prevent landlords across the country being driven from the rental market by high costs and red tape.

It is estimated that as many as 8,500 planning applications could be submitted each year if every landlord looking to turn their property into a HMO is first required to seek permission - instead, councils will be able to focus their efforts in particular neighbourhoods where HMOs present a problem, while landlords of HMOs in other areas will not be tied up in red tape.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

Councils know about local issues with shared homes, and don’t need top-down rules from Whitehall to deal with problems that don’t exist. Where too many shared homes are causing problems for other residents or changing the character of a neighbourhood, councils should be able to control their spread. But I’m not going to create unnecessary costs for landlords, which puts the supply of rented homes at risk.

That’s why I’m giving councils the power to decide whether to use the planning system to control the spread of shared housing where it is a problem. This will give them the flexibility to make decisions that are right for their communities, rather than stifling the rental market with unnecessary costs and red tape.

Shared homes ensure people who want to live and work in towns and cities can do so, and are vital to the economy. These changes will safeguard the supply of shared housing where it is needed without burdening landlords with cumbersome red tape - but will also hand councils the flexibility they need to tackle problems where they occur.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said:

Grant Shapps has taken quick and decisive action after this law was rushed through in April without sufficient clarification. At a time when council resource is scarce and housing is needed it makes no sense to be forcing thousands of local landlords and planning officers to be engaged in unnecessary bureaucracy. The Minister said last week that deregulation would characterise his approach to the private rented sector and as with other moves to cut red tape, these are further welcome steps.

Removing this one blanket requirement follows the Government’s commitment to scrap one size fits-all solutions in the planning system that create unnecessary bureaucracy and costs for councils and businesses.

Notes to editors

1. Councils are to be given more flexibility to manage HMOs in their area. The problems that arise from concentrations of HMOs are not widespread and the current requirement imposes an unnecessary burden on landlords and local planning authorities in those areas where HMOs are not a problem.  It also runs the risk of reducing supply if landlords choose to move out of the sector rather than face the costs and delays of applying for planning permission.

2. The definition of a small HMO (the C4 use class) will remain and permitted development rights will be extended to allow all changes between the C4 and C3 classes without the need for planning applications.  In areas where there is a need to control HMO development, local authorities will be able to use an Article 4 direction to remove these permitted development rights and require planning applications for such changes of use.

3. These proposals will mean that any change of use between dwelling houses and small HMOs will be able to happen without planning permission unless the local council believes there is problem with such development in a particular area. In these areas they will be able to use article 4 powers to require planning permission.

4. Consultation with interested partners on this issue will ensure that the new rules work effectively for local people without placing an unnecessary burden on landlords and local planning authorities.

5. The proposals are part of wider reform to the planning system so that it moves away from the current top-down approach and create a system which encourages local people to take responsibility for shaping their communities, and gives power to councils to make this happen.  


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Published 17 June 2010