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Navigating the Regulatory Landscape of HMO Consents in the UK: Understanding HMO Licensing vs. Planning Permission (2024)


Navigating the realm of Housing in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) in England can be a complex and challenging process. To successfully operate an HMO, property owners must understand the differences between acquiring a license and obtaining planning permission. It’s a common misconception that obtaining a license from the council automatically grants approval for HMO planning consent. This article aims to provide clarity on these misconceptions and serve as a cautionary guide for those embarking on HMO property ventures, emphasising the critical disparities between licensing and planning consent.

Also, if you’re planning to apply for HMO conversion planning permission, it’s important to be well-informed about the process. To help you out, we have prepared an article to provide crucial information that can help you avoid common mistakes and increase your chances of HMO approval:10 Critical Reasons Your HMO Conversion Planning Permission Could Be Rejected

HMO Licences and Standards


In the UK, property owners are required to apply for licences before renting out their homes as HMOs. HMO licences are designed to ensure compliance with safety and hygiene standards and combat substandard housing. Renewed every five years, these licences require detailed applications, including evidence of safety measures such as gas and electrical certifications and functional fire alarms. However, it’s important to note that obtaining a licence doesn’t guarantee unrestricted usage. Additional applications, such as change of use planning permission, may be necessary depending on local planning and HMO regulations. 

HMO licensing is divided into 3 types: 


  1. Mandatory licensing of large HMOs

This applies to large HMOs – where there are five or more occupants on the property, forming more than one household. These HMOs must follow the national minimum sizes for rooms used as sleeping accommodations, and landlords are required to follow council refuse schemes.

  1. Additional Licensing

This is when a council imposes a policy that requires other sizes of HMOs to be licensed (like smaller HMOs with fewer tenants). Councils are entitled to bring in new rules at any time, and can ask for all HMOs to be licensed.

  1. Selective Licensing

Selective licensing is a local scheme that can affect all rental properties in the area, determined by the borough, regardless of their size, number of storeys, or number of occupants.

Change of Use Planning Permission


HMO planning permission involves evaluating the suitability of the proposed property use within the local planning framework. It scrutinises various factors, including spatial standards, parking provisions, bicycle requirements, refusal storages and aesthetic considerations, to assess the proposal’s impact on the community. Unlike licenses, planning permission is more comprehensive and rigorous, encompassing thorough assessments beyond safety and hygiene standards. 

Converting a flat or regular house (C3) into an HMO accommodating up to 6 people (C4) is often feasible without the need for planning permission (and vice versa). This is because many properties benefit from permitted development rights, permitting such changes from C3 to C4 (and vice versa). For further details on permitted development rights, please check our page with more info on Permitted Development Rights.

Even if your conversion from C3 to C4 falls within permitted development rights, it is highly advisable to seek a Lawful Development Certificate from your Local Planning Authority (typically your local council). This certificate will offer formal confirmation that your conversion is classified as “permitted development” and shield you from potential future enforcement actions, which can be both costly and inconvenient. 

Areas under Article 4 Directions may require extra scrutiny and planning permission for HMO developments, particularly for properties like maisonettes or flats. Such developments may require both planning permission and an HMO licence, emphasising the complex regulatory environment. Depending on the circumstances, obtaining planning permission for a change from C3 to C4 or C3 to Sui Generis Use Class might be necessary. For more details, visit our HMO page.

Key Considerations and Enforcement


The departments dealing with licensing and planning are separate within the council and have different requirements and practices. So, obtaining a license does not necessarily guarantee that planning permission will be granted.

Failure to distinguish between licensing and planning permission can incur enforcement issues, legal ramifications and financial setbacks. Due diligence is essential at this stage, and this involves meticulous research into local council regulations, licensing schemes, and planning requirements before property acquisition. As Homz, we can act as your HMO agents and provide you with a Pre-Planning Advice to cover these points with a Planning Appraisal. This proactive and preventative approach will mitigate risks and ensure the HMO’s compliance with regulatory mandates.

In conclusion, navigating the realm of HMO in the UK requires a clear understanding of the differences between acquiring a license and obtaining planning permission. Adhering to licensing and planning requirements diligently, coupled with meticulous research, can safeguard against regulatory pitfalls and foster successful property ventures.

Navigating the process of HMO Licensing and Planning can be a daunting and time-consuming task that leaves many feeling overwhelmed and confused. At HOMZ, we recognise how challenging this can be and we are here to help make this process as seamless and efficient as possible for you. By choosing to work with us, you can rest assured that you will receive the highest level of professional support and guidance every step of the way. Contact Us Today to discuss your HMO application and HMO plans.


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