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Apr, 2014

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    142

    Default C3 plus C4 automatic right to dual use.

    Prior to April 2010, dwelling houses where people shared as a group were use class C3.

    Under the old definition of C3, a dwelling house could be occupied by upto 6 persons of any description e.g. students, non-students, related/non-related, etc made no difference as long as they shared as a group.

    The use class order 2010 revised the definition of the use class related to dwelling houses and split the 'old C3' in two, creating two new use classes; 'new C3' and C4. The 'new C3' was now restricted in its definition to allow only persons who were related or fewer in number than 2 to occupy C3 dwellings. The new 'C4' use class was created for houses occupied by unrelated persons called multi-occupancy, even if they shared as a single group and lived in a comparable style to a family.

    The advice from the government and local council is as follows:

    Where 'Article 4 directions' apply, planning permission for C4 use must be sought if unrelated people are to be permitted to live in what is currently a 'new' C3 house. Also, it is said that the 'Article 4 direction'/use class order cannot be made retrospective against houses that were in C4 use prior to the direction that have continued to be. However, if a C4 house changes to 'new C3', subsequent C4 use will be forbidden.

    The assumption above seems to be that if a house was occupied as described by either 'new C3' or C4 at the time the use class order came into effect, it would thereafter be categorised as either 'new C3' or C4 but not both thereby reducing the rights of the owner by narrowing the permitted use. The point of my post here is that I strongly disagree with this assumption.

    In my view, the use class order was simply a 'relabeling' of the description 'old C3'. In my opinion, provided there has been no material change of use, 'old C3' houses should now be correctly described by the new 'label' 'new C3 plus C4' (dual use). The fact that the 'new C3' label is written identically to the 'old C3' label as simply 'C3' seems like an attempt to trick people into thinking that their scope of permitted use has changed. (hence I have added the new/old prefix here for clarity).

    I do not understand how a new use class order can affect the scope of long standing pre-existing use as was described by 'old C3'.

    In my opinion, the single new use classes only apply to new builds and properties where the owner has sought change of use to a narrower single use class.

    Of particular concern to me is the scenario of a property where the very nature of its use can only be accurately described by dual use 'new C3 plus C4'. As example a shared student house that has been rented out to students over 10 years where almost every summer easter and winter for upto 3 months, the occupancy drops to <2 persons thereby falling under the definition of 'new C3' and reverting to C4 during term times. This being the normal characteristic nature of the use of the dwelling prior to the 2010 order and remaining unchanged thereafter.

    Am I correct in my view that the above can only be accurately described by dual use 'new C3 plus C4'?

    In such circumstances, dual use permission need not be sought from the council but instead, a certificate confirming the lawful established 'dual' use should be issued on request without any debate over granting permission.

    I would greatly appreciate the opinions of anyone experienced in planning law over this issue. If I am misunderstanding something then please explain what it is.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    174

    Default

    Hi,

    Planning "Usage" law is really really messy and often fully dependant upon either case law or planning appeals rulings.

    To be honest, C4 usage rights have not been proven in court. I had an issue with C4 planning rights about two years ago, but "scraped through" the issue once the current government changed the planning law again (Oct 2010). During the issue, I had paid a significant sum to a specialist legal firm who worked in this planning space for advice (which I would do again, if required).

    The basic message from them was this - usage rights is very vague. A house with 4 students may still be deemed to be C3! It all depends on the circumstances and how it is presented in court (i.e. if you plan to go to court, get a legal specialist, otherwise expect to lose).

    Additionally, historical usage rights are not a given. Even if the local council thinks you have a C4 usage right via historical usage, the courts may still differ. Local councils have been practical in saying that a house with 3 or more students is C4 as at October 2010, but it's still possible for a court to deem the house a C3 due to fact it may have housed a family for the prior 20 years.

    The local council I am working with has been practical in saying that if a C4 is occupied by 2 or less occupants for a short period of time, it does not default into C3 usage. But this practicality has no legal case law to back this view up. Again, the courts may take the view that the overall intentions of the house usage is C4, therefore C4 usage is valid.

    Also the C4 planning law is unhelpfully vague by using the word "occupier". If you can find helpful case law that describes what an occupier IS and when a house is occupied or not, then you get brownie points!

    So a) case law important. b) you need to wait at least 5 years and see what kind of rulings have come out to help the process.

    Councils may also discover that Article 4 restrictions are a double edged sword (I'll focus on students as this is my area):
    1) Locals in student towns discover that their house is worth LESS as it cannot be a student home. (and may also not find a buyer either).
    2) Locals complaining about student issues discover that blocking new student houses does not reduce existing student numbers, so the current problems are still there (or were never really there in the first place - politics for you...).
    3) Planning offices are NOT allowed to charge for Article 4 planning use changes - so lots of C4 usage changes would be expensive to manage.
    4) Local councils may also discover that the university starts to take on more students and then dumps the housing problem onto the local council to fix... bad politics all round (see the rumblings in Oxford with the HMO licensing).

    I know that I have not answered your questions, but I don't think that a clear answer is possible at this point in time.

    Regards,

    Schocca.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    North West
    Posts
    1,662

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    I am currently in discussions with my council over C3/C4. I have recently purchased a 3 bed house to let as 4 rooms to contractors for whom it is not their main or principal home, and they are not migrant workers. I maintain that it should be a C3. The council suggest it should be a C4 as the contractors are unrelated.

    The council might decide that it cannot be a C4 due to the area (close to industry), but as it will house contractors I have said I don't need a C4.

    If it's not a C4 I don't need the fire doors etc and the council are concerned about this.

    The council are consulting their solicitors about this and asking another council what they would do.

    Does anyone think a house with contractors is a C3 or C4? I would be grateful for your opinions.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    425

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Berlingogirl View Post
    Does anyone think a house with contractors is a C3 or C4? I would be grateful for your opinions.
    Interesting point-

    The HMO definition seems to technically exclude your situation.

    But I guess they could treat them as students and class as a HMO.

    My own view is it is a C4 HMO though.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    142

    Default

    Whether a house is C3 or C4 or "C3 plus C4" in planning law does not determine fire standards. Fire standards are determined by whether the house is an HMO for the purposes of the housing act 2004 which is a separate issue.

    In my opinion, any house that was built and used for residential purposes by 6 or less people prior to 6th April 2010 that has not expressly applied to be solely C3 or solely C4 and there has been no material change of use should automatically be correctly described by the category "C3 plus C4".

    I was hoping that someone on here could put forward a sound legal argument why I might be wrong.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    425

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    Quote Originally Posted by bureaucrazy View Post
    Whether a house is C3 or C4 or "C3 plus C4" in planning law does not determine fire standards. Fire standards are determined by whether the house is an HMO for the purposes of the housing act 2004 which is a separate issue.
    Correct, except in this case the exemption could apply in both planning and housing respects if allowed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    North West
    Posts
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    DNM2012 #4: yes the HMO definition does exclude my situation, but they are not students and have their own main homes elsewhere therefore it is not a C4 HMO. Students do not have their own homes - their parents do.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    North West
    Posts
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    Thank you bureacrazy, if the house is C3 (because the contractors have their main home elsewhere) then I don't need to apply the fire regs, however, I don't believe there is a C3/C4 so the house has to be either one or the other.

    My problem is compounded by the council not wanting to add more 'front doors' ie in a HMO to our area of chemical potential disaster.

    Therefore if C3 with contractors it's not a HMO and therefore allowed. If C4 HMO is created it might not be allowed because 4 front doors are created. Even though 12 houses are being built very nearby.
    Last edited by Berlingogirl; 11-02-2013 at 20:41 PM. Reason: dyslexia - words missed out

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    425

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    Quote Originally Posted by Berlingogirl View Post
    DNM2012 #4: yes the HMO definition does exclude my situation, but they are not students and have their own main homes elsewhere therefore it is not a C4 HMO. Students do not have their own homes - their parents do.
    But it could be argued if they are spending more time there, it then is classed as their main home.
    Be interesting to see what council decide.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    142

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    Quote Originally Posted by Berlingogirl View Post
    I don't believe there is a C3/C4 so the house has to be either one or the other.
    May I ask why you don't believe that you have C3 plus C4 dual use? The council may have told you so, but their opinion is not a definitive answer unless it is backed by a sound argument and or proven in court.

    It is quite commonplace for properties to be granted multiple use under the planning system. You must have heard of flexible use for commercial properties? A1,A2,A3 would mean that a ground floor commercial space had permission to be used for retail, financial services or food allowing for a range of prospective tenant types.

    The wider the range of use of your property the better it is for you. Therefore you should start from the position of arguing the widest possible permitted use applies and let the authorities prove otherwise.

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