Where there is an Article 4 (A4) Direction in place, anyone who wishes to change the use of a property from a family home to shared accommodation for unrelated tenants must apply for planning permission.

This is to ensure that local authorities have the power to regulate the number and quality of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in a certain area and reduce over-concentration.

A4s were originally introduced to restrict changes that could threaten the character of an area of acknowledged importance. There was then a change in the law in October 2010 which meant that an A4 Direction would also directly affect the development of HMOs. To date, 54 local authorities across the country have adopted an HMO A4 Direction and at present, it is free to apply for such planning permission.

Since this introduction, there has been much debate about whether an A4 Direction is unfairly restricting the development of HMOs and in fact, limiting the supply of affordable housing.

It’s true that in a minority of cases, noise pollution, anti-social behaviour and rubbish build-up can be attributed to HMOs. However, this is down to the irresponsibility of a small number of rogue landlords, and A4 Directions will not change this, as they only control the use of the land. Instead, better policing of the existing licensing regulations would help improve these problems.

Where A4s could be beneficial is in reducing the studentification of certain areas (where there is a saturation of student lets), allowing for better mixed communities. After all, their introduction does not mean that planning permission will not be granted, it just means that it has to be sought. This is a positive move, but there are some issues with how local authorities handle applications.

Inaccurate recording of existing HMOs makes it difficult for new applicants to establish whether an area is over-subscribed, as many HMOs have not obtained planning permission or a licence. Each application should also be considered individually, otherwise good landlords providing high-quality shared accommodation could be punished, while illegal landlords could be allowed to flourish.

As a countrywide franchise of landlords providing shared housing, the spread of A4s could have been a considerable worry for PPP. But as providers of high quality HMOs for working professionals, our Partners are an example of how HMOs are not a problem, but a solution to the housing crisis.

Their properties are not associated with the negativity surrounding student lets or bedsit type HMOs and instead, offer professional tenants premium yet affordable accommodation in an area where house prices are high, market rent for a whole property is not an option and it is increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder.

Such accommodation should be encouraged, not restricted and controlled to the extent that it is both an unaffordable and inaccessible housing choice.

Our Partners are lucky enough to have access to our planning department to ensure they know how and where permission would be given for planning, licensing and building control applications. But for independent and inexperienced landlords, A4 directions could pose a threat to the development of their HMO portfolio.

View more articles by Alison Broderick

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