Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are more tightly regulated in Portsmouth than in most parts of the country.  An HMO is a property where between three or more unrelated people share a kitchen and/or a bathroom.

A new HMO needs planning permission and a licence. The council can refuse planning permission if it doesn’t align with our Local Plan or withhold a licence if the landlord or property fails to pass our tests.

The Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) details how planning policies are applied when considering planning applications for HMOs.

Download the current HMO SPD (adopted in 2019).

Who decides if a property can become an HMO?

A new HMO needs both planning permission from the council’s Planning Service and a licence from the Housing Service. These processes have many similarities but have different legal purposes.

Detailed information on how we determine planning application for HMO use are set out in our HMO SPD document.

When is planning permission required?

Planning permission is required to change the use of a Class C3 house to a Class C4 HMO or larger HMO where three or more unrelated people share a kitchen and/or a bathroom.

What is C4 use?

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.

Can the council stop HMOs?

The council can refuse planning permission for an HMO if it is against the policies of the council’s Local Plan and the HMO SPD, or additionally could withhold a licence for a landlord if they, or the property, do meet the appropriate tests.

How do I apply for planning permission to change the use of my property into an HMO (from class C3 to class C4)?

Please make a planning application. For a change of use application, we would expect to see a site plan and floor plans.

Does a landlord need a license to operate an HMO?

If you are a landlord of a HMO you need to have a licence. There are three types of licence. The one you need will depend on how many people you have living in your HMO, or if you have a property converted into flats.

Apply for a licence

Frequently asked questions