When you’re looking for an investment, buying a property and converting its use to a small HMO provides you with a good rental opportunity. You need to check, however, whether an Article 4 direction applies to the area you’re buying in. Here, we’ll explain what an Article 4 direction is, how to check if one is in place and what to consider when buying in an area where an Article 4 direction applies.
What is an Article 4 direction?
Under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), permitted development rights are given to property owners. These allow for some development works or changes of use to be carried out on properties without having to apply for planning permission. Usually, a single dwelling (class C3 use) can be converted to a small HMO (class C4 use) without planning permission. A small HMO is a property that accommodates three to six unrelated tenants. Planning permission is usually only required when converting a single dwelling to a large HMO. This accommodates more than six unrelated tenants.
An Article 4 direction, however, gives local councils the right to remove the permitted development rights for specific areas or properties. This is a way for them to control the level of HMOs in an area. As such, it helps to manage the impact that they have on that area. For example, a high concentration of HMOs in Bexleyheath can lead to parking issues, noise disturbances and an unsettled community. Restricting the development of HMOs keeps the types of housing in an area more even and the community more balanced.
If an Article 4 direction applies to an area, you need to apply for planning permission if you intend to buy a single dwelling and change its use to a small HMO. It’s important to note that Article 4 directions don’t apply to physical changes that are made to properties. They only apply to the change of use.
How to check if an area has an Article 4 direction
If you’re looking to invest in a property with the aim of having your first HMO or expanding your HMO portfolio, be sure to check for an Article 4 direction order. If you don’t and then realise one is in place after you’ve purchased a property, you could find that planning permission is refused. You’d then be unable to benefit from the rental advantage that a small HMO has over a single dwelling.
Check the local council’s website and search for their Article 4 map. This will display the parts of an area that fall under Article 4 direction legislation. Alternatively, perform a search on the Internet for Article 4 direction areas in the region you’re looking to buy a property. If you prefer, instruct a conveyancer to check this for you.
Buying a property in an area with an Article 4 direction
Have you found a property that’s ideal for changing to a small HMO but an HMO article 4 direction is in place? There are some steps you can take to improve your chances of success when it comes to your application for planning permission.
Check the HMO density
Do your research on the density of HMO properties in the area. In particular, check the density in the immediate area to the street the property is located in. Check the local council’s website to see if they’ve published details of the HMO density threshold for the area. This will be set as a percentage that the level of HMOs shouldn’t exceed within specific parts of an area. Therefore, if the property you want to buy is located close to streets with a high HMO density, be cautious about buying it as your planning permission application may be rejected.
Find out if there are neighbouring HMO properties
If the property is next to another HMO property, you risk your application being denied. This is because local councils tend to view neighbouring HMOs as a contributing factor to a high HMO density.
Search for comparable properties
Find similar properties within the area and check the planning records to find out the outcomes of those applications.
Submit a pre-planning application
Before buying the property, submit a pre-planning application. This will show you whether or not your full planning application is likely to be approved if you proceed with buying the property.
Get advice from a planning expert
Rather than carrying out this research yourself, you can speak with a local planning expert. With an extensive knowledge of the local area and the council’s requirements, they’re in a good position to provide Article 4 direction guidance. They’ll be able to advise you on ways to improve the likelihood of being granted planning permission.
We can help with your HMO property needs
Areas covered by an Article 4 direction need careful consideration before buying properties to convert to small HMOs. The more research you do before buying, the more you increase your chances of having a planning application approved. As an alternative, you can buy an existing small HMO property to save you the time and worry. This is because existing HMOs aren’t affected by Article 4 directions that are subsequently applied.
Before making a decision, speak with one of our mortgage brokers for expert guidance. They can answer your queries on Article 4 directions and arrange the financing of your purchase. Just give us a call on 01322 907 000 to discuss your residential or HMO mortgage requirements. We can also help with other aspects of your investment, such as providing advice on HMO licences and arranging insurance.