Cardiff Council to restrict number of HMOs | CPS Homes

Cardiff Council to restrict HMOs and number of flat conversions

County Hall on Atlantic Wharf

Cardiff Council are currently consulting on the introduction of Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) to restrict the number of HMOs and flat conversions in Cardiff.

If successful, it will effectively limit the creation of seven-or-more bedroom HMOs and restrict the subdivision of houses into apartments.

The consultation period is due to end on 25th April 2014 and is likely to be passed through to councillors in more or less in its current form, which will mean the following changes to HMO housing*;

  1. If floors are lowered, it must not affect the external appearance of the property.
  2. New floors must not cut across existing window openings.
  3. Subdivision of rooms will not be acceptable unless rooms are excessively large.
  4. A living room with just roof-lights will not be acceptable.
  5. A minimum of 25m² amenity space must be provided, excluding bin stores.
  6. Covered cycle storage must be provided.
  7. Bedrooms in attic space must have a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2m of 75% of the measurable floor area.

*Please note that the proposed guidance will only apply to properties classed as HMOs in planning use terms, which is different to HMO licensing’s definition of a HMO (3 or more tenants). Please read on.

New rules could create ‘sui generis' HMOs

Currently, a property with six-or-less tenants falls into the standard C3 planning classification used for normal residential dwellings. If a landlord intends to change this and begin housing seven-or-more tenants, the property ‘may’ fall outside of the C3 classification and be considered a ‘sui generis HMO’, which would mean a change of use application approved by the local authority is required.

However, Cardiff Council are intending to ignore the ‘may’ part of the above sentence and will insist that every property changing from six-or-less tenants to seven-or-more will be a ‘sui generis HMO’ and require a change of use application. Then, when the application is submitted, they are likely find reason to fail it based on one or more of the seven new conditions listed further above, thereby limiting the creation of seven-or-more bedroom properties in Cardiff.

While the definition of what is a sui generis HMO and what isn't is complex, it is set in case law that a change of use application may not be required where the group of tenants live together as a single household (like a family would), and there are a set of nine factors which help decide this. Cardiff Council are trying to ignore this case law by not fully explaining what a single household can be defined as.

Additionally, the Council are only permitted to introduce new Supplementary Planning Guidance to clarify or reinforce their existing policies, in which there is no mention of HMOs and their 'sui generis' classification. Therefore, we don’t believe they have the power to bring this new policy – which is poorly drafted and onerous – into force.

However, if it is introduced, we have been advised that it will be applied retrospectively, meaning properties currently housing seven-or-more tenants with no change of use policy will be targeted.

New regulations for flats

As well as the impact on HMOs, flats are also set to be affected, with the proposed regulations meaning flats must be at least 30m², with no provision for studios or bedsits. Additionally, flats within the roof space will not be allowed, nor will rear access to flats.

With landlord and agent licensing also due to come into force in the near future, as well as proposed HMO licensing for the Plasnewydd ward (more information on both to follow), investors may well opt to spend their money in cities with less red tape in the future.

If you’d like your say on the proposed changes, we’re happy to listen to them and pass them onto Cardiff Council. Please make contact with John Pinn via john@cpshomes.co.uk. Alternatively, you may e-mail the Council directly on LDP@cardiff.gov.uk.

22 April 2014

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