Cardiff Council and Welsh Government to restrict HMOs

Senedd at Cardiff Bay

Back in April 2014, we informed you how Cardiff Council were looking to restrict the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) by bringing in new Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG). We raised concerns regarding the wording of this SPG and, ultimately, it was not put into place. However, the issue has been raised again, and it's looking much more likely that it will come into force.

Planning use classifications

Currently, the C3 planning use classification in Wales applies to all dwelling houses up to and including six tenants. As a landlord wanting to house seven-or-more tenants, then depending on if the seven tenants would be classed as living together as a single household, you may have to apply for planning permission under "HMO sui generis" classification.

The Welsh Government is now proposing to introduce a C4 planning classification, and there is a consultation titled "Further secondary legislation for development management" open until 26th October 2015 on the subject. The “HMO sui generis” classification for seven-or-more tenants would remain the same, but the proposed C4 classification would apply to every property with three-to-six unrelated tenants.

In practice, it means somebody buying a house that has always been rented to a family or a couple of sharers under C3 use will be required to make a "change of use" application to C4 at the recently-increased rate of £380 if they want to house three-or-more unrelated tenants in the property – with no guarantee of approval.

This change is not proposed to be carried out retrospectively.

Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Separate to the above consultation from the Welsh Government, Cardiff Council are currently drafting a new planning policy. It hasn’t yet been released to the public, but we understand it aims to ultimately restrict the number of HMOs in Cardiff.

The key to the policy is understanding that this guidance will apply to all properties with three-or-more unrelated tenants, whereas previously they would fall under normal dwelling house guidance. Furthermore, we believe there are going to be controls to restrict the number of HMOs on any one street in order to reduce/control concentration.

We’re unsure if the Council are going to try and place physical restrictions on what work can be carried out on the properties as per their previous SPG draft – details of which can be found here.

Cathays councillors are currently putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Planning Department and are encouraging them to refuse all "change of use" applications to HMOs in their ward. We consider it highly likely that when this policy is brought into effect, it will be actively used to refuse "change of use" applications, which are typically submitted when purchasing a house to develop, or even extending, to gain an extra tenant.

This SPG could ultimately mean that:

  • Landlords are unable to develop a property if there are already a certain numbers of HMOs on the same street;
  • It will be very tricky to assess whether to invest in future properties without the certainty of obtaining planning permission for the change of use.

What shall I do?

Both changes are very likely to come into force. The Local Development Plan is likely to be approved at the end of this year, which puts the legal framework in place to bring this policy forward.

If you have a development you want to complete in the next five years, you may want to act now. Planning permission lasts for five years and, legally, Cardiff Council can only apply current planning policy when considering applications. Sadly, this is currently being completely disregarded due to political pressure, so you may have to appeal any unjust decisions and apply to have your costs paid by the Council.

If you have comments on the Welsh Government’s planning proposals, we urge you to reply directly to the consultation or send your thoughts to John Pinn (john@quinco.co.uk/02920 443810), who is compiling a response for CPS Homes.

If you have comments on the Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), this consultation has not yet been released, but is being driven by Cathays councillors. If you wish to contact the ward councillors, their contact details can be found here.

12 October 2015

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