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HMO Article 4 FAQs

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An HMO is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’ (for example, a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen. It’s sometimes called a ‘house share’.

An HMO licence will be required if all of the following apply:

  • it’s rented to five or more people who form more than one household
  • tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities
  • It is not a purpose built flat in a block of three or more such flats


Landlords of HMOs falling within the prescribed description who fail to apply for licences commit a criminal offence. 

HMO licences are issued by the council’s Private Housing Team, you can apply at https://housinglicensing.lincoln.gov.uk/ or contact the team at hmolicensing@lincoln.gov.uk.

A licensed HMO may also require planning permission.

A Use Class C4 HMO is identified within the Town and County Planning (Uses Classes) Order 1987, as amended, as use of a dwelling house by 3-6 residents as a “house in multiple occupation”.

All HMOs which include more than 6 people sharing do not fall within any specified use class and are considered Sui Generis. This means they are in a class of their own, and always require planning permission.

Planning permission is required for HMO developments comprising the following:

  • New build Class C4 or Sui Generis HMOs
  • Changes of use to Sui Generis HMOs
  • Proposals to intensify or enlarge existing HMOs (where planning permission is required)
  • Changes of use to Class C4 HMOs (from 1st March 2016)
  • Proposals for flexible C3/C4 uses (from 1st March 2016)

An Article 4 direction is a planning tool which the local planning authority can use to withdraw permitted development rights for a particular type of development. A legal process has to be followed in order to introduce an Article 4 direction.

Details of all Article 4 directions that apply within the city are available here: www.lincoln.gov.uk/article4.

The Article 4 direction relating to HMOs relates to development comprising the change of use from a use falling within Class C3 (dwelling houses) of the Town and County Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, as amended; to a use falling within Class C4 (houses in multiple occupation) of that Order; and removes permitted development rights for this type of development. Planning permission will, therefore, be required for any changes of use from Class C3 to C4 from 1 st March 2016.

The Article 4 direction relating to HMOs is registered as a planning charge to make property purchasers aware of the potential for planning permission to be required.

The Article 4 direction relating to HMOs was made on 15th December 2014, following a city-wide consultation exercise to seek the views of residents, elected members and interested parties on the issues raised by the growth of HMOs in the city.

The Article 4 direction relating to HMOs came into effect on 1st March 2016.

The council’s Executive confirmed the Article 4 direction relating to HMOs at their meeting on 25th January 2016.

The Article 4 direction relating to HMOs cannot be applied retrospectively, so if you currently own or operate HMOs it may be beneficial for you to declare them to the council.

You can declare a property as an HMO by completing the online declaration form at www.lincoln.gov.uk/hmo.

You may also require a HMO Licence from the Private Housing Team. This needs to be applied for separately – please see https://www.lincoln.gov.uk/housing/landlords/houses-in-multiple-occupation-hmos/ for more information.

If you do not declare your property as an HMO, you may be subject to enforcement action where the council will investigate the lawful planning use of the property. You will be required to demonstrate that the property was in use as a HMO prior to 1 st March 2016, and the property has continued to be used as an HMO. If you cannot provide evidence to satisfy the council that the property is a lawful HMO, you will be required to apply for retrospective planning permission.

Yes. In order for a property to be classed as a C4 HMO before 1st March 2016, it must have already been in occupation as an HMO before this date. Just having completed any conversion works, or registering the property for its intended use, is not sufficient to state that a change of use has occurred. The use class of the property will only change from Class C3 to Class C4 upon occupation when the use is implemented.

Yes, if a material change of use has occurred. The use class of the property will change from Class C4 to Class C3 upon occupation of the property by a family. Planning permission will, therefore, be required to change the use from a C3 dwelling house to C4 HMO.

No. If a property was used as a C4 HMO prior to it being empty it will not lose its C4 HMO status, provided no other use has taken place between lettings. If the property was used as a C4 HMO before 1 st March 2016, or if it was granted planning permission for C4 use after this date, its lawful use will remain as a C4 HMO.

No. Change of use from a Class C4 to Class C3 is permitted development. There is no intention to withdraw permitted development rights for this type of development.

In cases where planning permission is required to change the use of a C3 dwelling house to a C4 HMO, and the Planning Manager / members of the Planning Committee are minded to approve an application, the use of a flexible planning condition to allow the lawful use of the property to change between C4 and C3 for a specified period of time after planning approval is given will be considered. Giving landlords and property owners the ability to respond to changing local housing market circumstances by letting their properties as either single family dwelling houses or HMOs, without the need to apply for planning permission.

The council has set the maximum period for this flexible planning use at 10 years, after which the occupied use would become the lawful use, unless the applicant was to apply for a new planning permission to continue the flexible use.

This flexible planning condition would only apply to proposals for C4 HMOs, and not Sui Generis HMOs. In cases where a property is already occupied as a C4 HMO, it will be possible to obtain planning permission for this flexible planning use, if it can be demonstrated that the property was established as a HMO before 1st March 2016.

Guidance on how to apply for planning permission is available here www.lincoln.gov.uk/planning. 

The council offers a pre-application service which gives you an opportunity to discuss your proposal with a planning officer and find out what information you need to support your planning application.

Further details are available here: www.lincoln.gov.uk/planning. 

Free general planning advice can also be obtained from the Planning Portal, an online Government initiative that offers a wide range of services and information on the planning system.

From 17 January 2018 a fee of £462 will be charged for planning applications which arise as a consequence of an Article 4 direction, which is the standard fee for a change of use application. This fee will also apply to an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use.

For further advice on planning fees contact the Development Team online.

Section 6.3 of the ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document’ (HMO SPD) outlines the planning application requirements for HMO developments.

The HMO SPD is available here:  www.lincoln.gov.uk/hmo.

Planning applications for HMO developments will be required to include evidence that the property has been openly marketed at a reasonable purchase or rental price for a period of at least six months, for example, sale or rental particulars, details of advertising undertaken including dates. The evidence provided must be verified by a suitable person in a relevant profession, such as an estate agent.

Any individual, business, organisation or group is able to make comments on any planning application. Guidance on commenting on planning applications is available on the council’s website at:  www.lincoln.gov.uk/planning. 

Section 6.4 of the ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document’ (HMO SPD) outlines who will be invited to comment on planning applications for HMO developments, and the issues they will be asked to consider.

The HMO SPD is available here:  www.lincoln.gov.uk/hmo.

Your application will be assessed by a planning officer, using the criteria outlined in Section 5 of the ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document’ (HMO SPD), and a recommendation will be made on whether planning permission should be granted or refused.

The HMO SPD is available here: www.lincoln.gov.uk/hmo.

Most planning applications are determined under delegated powers by the Planning Manager. Where it is deemed necessary, proposals will be considered by members of the Planning Committee.

Details of the council’s Planning Committee procedures are available here: www.lincoln.gov.uk/planning. 

Most planning applications, including those for changes of use, are determined within 8 weeks of being registered.