Long-term HMO landlords in Portsmouth risk losing their C3/C4 status with no chance of getting it back due to confusion over planning rules, it is claimed.
Many took advantage of the option to switch between family use (C3) and HMO (C4) without needing planning permission in 2012 and 2013.
But Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association (PDPLA) says it wasn't warned that this flexibility had an expiry date.
The authority’s planning team has told surprised landlords that the lawful use is fixed on whatever exists 10 years after they obtained dual use.
Those landlords who may have started letting to a family due to a shortage of students during Covid and now want to revert to an HMO will have to reapply but might not get planning permission if their property is in a relatively dense area of student HMOs.
PDPLA chairman Martin Silman will ask the council for a policy agreement that if a property with existing C3/C4 permitted use applies for it again it should be granted - regardless of the current use.
“Without this assurance, our advice is to leave C4 properties empty or to make sure that C3/C4 properties retain their C4 status by ensuring they are let as HMOs at the end of the 10-year term,” he tells LandlordZONE.
“We believe quite a few landlords will be affected – we know of one agent who put through about 200 properties on this basis.”
Portsmouth landlord Daryn Brewer, from the HMO Council Tax reform group, says it’s a disaster starting to happen. “We’ve got a national housing crisis yet we’re making it harder for people to renew their HMO planning application,” he tells LandlordZONE.
“Plus, the HMO register isn’t getting updated quickly enough so landlords may get turned down because the council thinks there are enough HMOs in a street when in fact they’ve been sold and turned into family homes.”
Ian Maguire, assistant director regeneration at Portsmouth City Council, confirms that the dual use under the national Development Order states that a change of use under a granted planning permission cannot be carried out more than 10 years after the permission has been granted. "This limitation on the flexibility is therefore not a Portsmouth City Council approach but a type of consent prescribed by government for over 30 years," he explains. "All landlords are encouraged to take professional advice before seeking planning permission or seeking to rely on 'permitted development rights' to ensure they manage their properties in a lawful way."