Do you know what an HMO is? Here is a brief description of Houses in Multiple Occupation in relation to their Planning Use Classifications.

An HMO is a “House in multiple occupation”.   It means that three or more UNRELATED tenants live there, and share one or more of the basic amenities, such as a kitchen, a bathroom, or living space.  A typical example would be a student flat, but the classification is not limited to that.

Technically, in planning an HMO falls into a different use class than an ordinary flat or dwelling, but which use class it falls into depends on its size, and on who manages it.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Small Properties – 3 to 6 Tenant

Since new government legislation was introduced in 2012 a house with 3 – 6 unrelated occupants is Use Class C4.  Interestingly, this applies to flats owned or managed by private providers as those managed by an Educational Establishment are excluded from this use class.  Where this gets interesting, and sometimes confusing, is that legislation allows Local Authorities to require a planning application for a change of use from a dwelling house to a house in multiple occupation so that they can prevent the problems sometimes caused to a community by high concentrations of rented houses in one area, a situation sometimes called “studentification” .

At the moment, a change of use from Dwelling House to a HMO may be a permitted development right (it is currently in Durham City for example), but this is not always the case.  If an Article 4 Direction has been put in place, restricting permitted development rights then to change a dwelling into a HMO you will need planning permission if you wish to change an existing dwelling to a House in Multiple Occupation.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Large Properties – More than 6 Tenants

Another confusion to this issue is houses or flats that accommodate more than 6 unrelated tenants.  These do not come under the Use Class C4 at all as they are unclassified by the use class order and therefore come under “sui generis”, which translates to “Of their own kind”.  To give you an example of how wide a range of developments that this description covers, it would include the use of a building as a Vetinary Surgery.  In order to convert an existing dwelling into this category, it would be advisable to contact the Local Authority to clarify their requirements.

Houses in Multiple Occupation – Developments by Educational Establishments

Whilst the two sections above describe the use classes for HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) which are owned / managed by private landlords, if it is the Educational Establishment themselves carrying out the development, the planning application will generally be made in respect of Use Class C2, “Residential Institutions”.


This article relates to Planning Use Classes.  There are also Building Regulation implications of converting a building into an HMO, and there may also be statutory controls and licensing requirements as well.