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Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

SGPC - 17th May 2022

Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are properties rented out to at least 3 people who are not from one household (for example, a family) but share facilities like a bathroom or kitchen.

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Most HMOs are conversions or subdivisions of larger houses and currently, as at 2021, planning permission is only usually needed for HMOs which will provide a home for 7 or more people.

HMOs meet a variety of needs for private rented housing, ranging from young professional ‘house-shares’ and students wanting to live off campus, as well as providing a vital source of housing supply for people on lower incomes. For many people, HMOs provide a practical and affordable housing option that meets their housing needs.

Evidence shows that there has been an increase in this type of development in South Gloucestershire over recent years to meet demand. This has resulted in concentrations of HMOs in particular parts of the district which has, in some cases, created a perception of issues for the neighbouring properties and the wider community. These issues mainly relate to increased parking pressures, noise, management of waste and recycling and anti-social behaviour.

Policy PSP16 sets out the the parking and cycling requirements for HMOs, a minimum number of 0.5 car parking spaces per bedroom should be provided (Rounded up to the nearest number of spaces.) This can be provided within the curtilage, or alternatively through submission of appropriate evidence of the availability of on street parking during evenings and weekends. Cycle parking should be provided at a minimum of one secure and covered space per bedroom’.

With regard to assessing impact on neighbouring amenity, Policies PSP39 and PSP8 provide explanatory advice on preventing ‘sandwiching’ of residential properties between HMOs which could prejudice the amenity of neighbours. Sandwiching’ situations can occur even where there are limited breaks in the building line, including across private or unadopted adjacent access tracks within the curtilage of properties. ‘Sandwiching’ is unlikely to occur across separating roads.

Policy PSP39 states that where planning permission for an HMO is required, this will be acceptable, provided that this will not prejudice the amenity of neighbours. Supporting text states that the term “neighbours” should be taken to mean properties adjacent to, and surrounding, the application site which have a reasonable potential to be directly affected by harmful impacts arising from the proposal.

In addition, Policy PSP8 maintains that development proposals will only be acceptable provided that they do not ‘have unacceptable impacts on residential amenity of occupiers of the development or of nearby properties. Unacceptable impacts could result from noise or disturbance, amongst other factors, which could arise from HMOs functioning less like traditional single households on a day-to-day basis.

Prejudicing the amenity of neighbours can arise at a localised level when developments of such HMO uses are inappropriately located, or become concentrated, particularly at an individual street level.


All HMOs, no matter of size require a licence

Article 4 Direction

An A4D is a Direction made under Article 4 with regard to assessing impact on neighbouring amenity, to support adopted Policies PSP39 and PSP8 which provide the policy framework on preventing ‘sandwiching’ of residential properties between HMOs which could prejudice the impact on neighbouring properties.

The purpose of the introduction of an A4D is to remove national permitted development rights only in instances where both evidence and subsequent justification underpin the case for withdrawal of these permitted development rights in order to support the necessary protection of the local amenity and/or the wellbeing of the area. The purpose of an A4D in relation to HMOs is to remove permitted development right which enables the conversion of dwelling houses (C3) uses to small HMOs (C4) without planning permission.

South Gloucestershire are currently reviewing the implementation of A4Ds in locations where there is considered to be evidence to do so. This will require justification for its purpose and extent and will need to be subject to consultation.

In the areas where an A4D applies, all property owners or prospective landlords would no longer have permitted development rights to convert a dwelling house (C3) to a small HMO (C4) without planning permission. This would not mean that HMOs within A4D areas are unacceptable, rather that it would bring these into the planning system to allow consideration of the proposed development against policies.

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