Houses in multiple occupation

The Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) details howpolicy PCS20 is applied when considering planning applications for HMOs.

In 2017 and again in 2018 the Planning Service consulted with residents and stakeholders on proposed changes to the HMO SPD that was originally adopted in 2012. Following this, at the meeting of PRED on 31st July 2018, it was decided to adopt the amendments to the Houses in Multiple Occupation SPD with immediate effect. The revised SPD introduces restrictions to prevent three or more HMOs in a row and to address non-HMO residential properties from being 'sandwiched' between two HMOs.

If you have any questions you can email us on planningpolicy@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

When is planning permission required?

An Article 4 Direction relating to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) came into force in Portsmouth on 1 November 2011. 

The Direction means that planning permission is now required in order to change the use of a Class C3 dwelling house to a Class C4 HMO where between three and six unrelated people share a kitchen and/or a bathroom. 

Frequently asked questions about these use classes, HMOs and the changes can be found below.

There is no need to apply for planning permission for properties that were already in Class C4 use before 1 November 2011. 

  • Owners and landlords can let us know if their property that was in C4 use before 1 November 2011 by printing and completing the PDF form below.

Making us aware that your property was in C4 use before the rules changed will make enforcement action less likely in the future.

Please note that if you do register your property with us, you must provide evidence that it was in C4 use on or before 31 October 2011 and that it has been in continuous Class C4 use since this time.

Please find a copy of our most up-to-date HMO database in the documents section at the bottom of the page.

  • The database is made up of records of properties with planning permission for Class C4 use, sui generis HMO use and mixed C3/C4 use, records of Class C4 HMOs submitted to the council by property owners, HMOs that have been issued a licence by the council and council tax records.
  • To confirm existing lawful use of a property, do not rely on the database as evidence. Find out whether planning permission for HMO use has been granted by using our PublicAccess system or contacting us. Or secure your own evidence to show that the property has been in continuous Class C4 since 31 October 2011, such as copies of tenancy agreements.

How planning applications for HMOs are decided - supplementary planning document

Policy PCS20 of the Portsmouth Plan will be used to determine planning applications for HMO use.

Detailed information about how this policy will be implemented is set out in a supplementary planning document (SPD), which is available below.

A property is in class C4 use when it is occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals as their only or main residence and who share basic amenities for cooking and/or personal hygiene - Class C4 use applies regardless of the type of occupant. To be classified as an HMO, a property does not need to be converted or adapted in any way. The definition can include small bed-sits.

Types of use that are excluded from the C4 class include social housing, care homes, children’s homes, bail hostels, properties containing the owner and up to two lodgers and properties occupied by students that are managed by an education establishment.

Unfortunately we are unable to indicate at the pre-application stage whether or not an application would receive officer support.

The database is continually being updated as the status of property changes/becomes known/planning permissions are granted, but this only acts as one of the tools that we use to collate information about HMO concentrations in any particular area.

The HMO database is available to view in the documents section below.

No, if the C4 use was established prior to the 1 November 2011 then this will be considered its lawful use. You should seek to secure your own evidence, such as copies of tenancy agreements, to show that the property was in Class C4 use on or before 31 October 2011. Please note, you may be asked to prove that the property was in such use before the 1 November 2011. If you are in any doubt about whether this is the case, you should seek independent advice.

You or the vendor could also apply to the city council for a Certificate of Lawful Use. There would be a fee for this certificate.

Planning applications for change of use can be made online using The planning portal website. For a change of use application we would expect to see a site plan and floor plans. The fee applicable to this type of application is £462.

Letting a property in class C4 use to a family for any period of time will mean that its use will change to a class C3 dwelling house. You will need to apply for planning permission to change the use of the property ‘back’ to a class C4 HMO if you want to rent it out again to between three and six unrelated individuals.

 

Renting to less than three unrelated individuals would also mean that the use of the property has changed from class C4 to C3. (Unless, for example, there are other tenancy agreements in place for more occupants but only one or two are currently in residence or the landlord is actively seeking further tenants.)

 

Another option is to apply for planning permission for mixed C3/C4 use. This will mean that the property can be used in either way. You can apply for permission for a mixed C3/C4 use from 1 November 2011. The fee for this application is £462.

A property won't lose its class C4 'status' if it's empty. If the property was used as a C4 HMO prior to it being empty (if this use was established prior to 1 November 2011 or if it was granted planning permission for C4 use after this date) then this will remain its lawful use.

The rules relating to properties where seven or more unrelated individuals are sharing amenities have not changed. Where there is a material change to this type of use, planning permission will be required. If you wish to rent your property to seven or more people, you must apply to the city council for planning permission to do so. There will be a fee to make this type of planning application.

Yes - you may require a licence, under the Housing Act 2004, to operate an HMO. For more information, and to find out about our landlord accreditation scheme - please visit our pages for private landlords.

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