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The Labour Government’s approach to concentrations of HMOs

In 2008 the Labour Government responded to concerns about the impact of high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in certain areas by announcing an evidence review. Complaints focused on increased levels of anti-social behaviour, crime, parking difficulties and pressure on local facilities. Concentrations of student housing were identified as a particular issue, but the problems were also identified in coastal towns because of the plentiful supply of rented accommodation in those areas.

A consultation process was conducted in 2009, resulting in the announcement of an intention to legislate to allow tighter planning controls over HMOs by amending the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.

Planning permission required to convert a home into a house in multiple occupation

From 6 April 2010 changes implemented by The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010 meant that, in certain circumstances, a landlord wishing to let out a property as a HMO may have needed to seek planning permission before doing so.  The changes introduced by the Order were not retrospective and did not affect existing HMOs.

Private landlords’ organisations argued that the need to seek planning permission could reduce the supply of private rented accommodation.

The Coalition Government’s approach

The measures introduced in April 2010 were short-lived. Following the 2010 General Election the new Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, announced in June that further measures would be introduced to allow changes of use between family houses and small, shared houses to take place freely without the need for planning permission.

Local authorities can use direction making powers to limit HMO growth

Local authorities would be able to use their existing direction making powers to restrict changes of use by requiring planning applications where they deem it necessary.  The relevant statutory instruments, The Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No 2) (England) Order 2010 (2010 No. 2134) and The Town and Country Planning (Compensation) (No. 3) (England) Regulations 2010 (2010 No. 2135) came into force on 1 October 2010.


With effect from 25 February 2016, the Welsh Government introduced changes to allow Welsh local authorities to require planning consent for new HMOs, and to consider the effects such dwellings might have on local areas, before deciding whether to approve planning permission or refuse it.

Other relevant papers

General information on Planning Use Classes can be found in Library Briefing Paper 01301, Planning Use Class Orders.

General information on authorities’ powers to set standards in HMOs within their areas can be found in Library Briefing Paper 00708, Houses in multiple occupation.

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