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Article > HMO Planning and Article 4


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Paul Preston

In this article, I’d like to cover HMO Planning and Article 4. I’ll be covering HMO Licensing in another article, but I’d like to make this distinction to start with – planning has noting to do with licensing, and vice versa. Often, people put ‘planning and licensing’ together, and although it is important that they are looked at and addresses correctly, they are separate entities, separate subject matters, separate departments at the Council and have separate rules. In this article, we’re focussing on planning.

Now, the caveat for the information is this article is this: rules can (and do) vary from council to council, so ALWAYS check with the local council and don’t assume. So, I’ll give you the ‘big picture’ rule and the ‘yes but’ rule.

A quick point of clarification first:

A normal residential house is Class C3 Residential Dwelling (planning class), an HMO of 3-6 rooms is a Class C4 HMO. 7 or more rooms is still an HMO, but it goes into a different ‘box’ in planning terms, and it goes into the ‘suis generis’ category / planning class (a Latin term meaning ‘of its own kind). In most areas of the country, you do not need planning permission for the “change of use” (key term) from C3 to C4, you can just do it. So in most areas of the country, you can change a normal residential house into an HMO of up to 6 rooms without having to obtain planning permission for change of use. (For clarity, Suis Generis Class HMO’s are not Class C4 HMO’s so do not have permitted development rights, and will require planning permission).

The ‘yes but’ rule however is Article 4. When the central government relaxed the planning laws to make C4 HMO’s permitted development (in October 2010), they also included a ‘yes but’ piece of legislation that local councils could use to ‘override’ this permitted development right and still require people to apply for planning permission for this ‘change of use’. This direction is called an Article 4 Direction. In very simple terms, it means that if an area / council has an Article 4 direction, you still need to apply for planning permission to change the ‘use’ of a normal residential house into an HMO.

The common mis-understanding is that Article 4 means you can’t do HMO’s in that area any more. This is not the case. It simply means that you need to apply for planning permission, just like you used to have to do before the law changed in Oct 2010.

Is it easier to operate new HMO’s in an area with no Article 4? - Yes

Does Article 4 mean you shouldn’t try to do HMO’s in that area? - No

It’s important to remember this: any council could implement Article 4 at any time! Just because it’s not there now, doesn’t mean it couldn’t come in…so make hay while the sun shines!

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Paul has written other articles about HMOs, check them out here -

HMO's What & Why

The Four HMO Market Sectors

The Lifestyle that's Possible with HMO's


About Paul Preston, The HMO Guy.

As well as being a successful property investor and businessman, Paul is a normal, down to earth, regular guy who's simply learned about property, taken action and worked hard to become financially free. Paul has been investing in property for nearly 15 years, is a self-made millionaire twice over (which means he made it, lost it all, and made it back again), he’s an international speaker, author and serial entrepreneur, having had several successful businesses outside of property.

Paul is an expert on the subject creating exceptional wealth through property and his specialises in HMO’s and Multi-let properties for high cash flow, generating returns well in excess of £1,000 clear profit, per property, per month.


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