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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.


HMO Legislation & Oxford rental properties


FK Adviceline: Letting to Sharers

The Government has been concerned about the creation of ‘student ghettos’ recently dubbed ‘studentification’ of parts of student towns and cities. Following a consultation, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2009 have decided to create a new planning use class specifically for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

This new planning use class came in to force on 6 April 2010 by way of an amendment to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. The changes are only valid in England.

While we at Finders Keepers believe this legislation is unnecessary and far too draconian (and will cause issues for sharers renting in Oxford) the reality is that the legislation is live and active.

The current situation is laid out below – for specific advice please contact Simon Tyrrell on 01865 200012.

The revised classes are:

Class C3 – Single households of up to six occupiers.

  • C3(a): those living together as a single household as defined by the Housing Act 2004 (basically a ‘family’) a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a fosterparent and foster child.
  • C3(b): those living together as a single household and receiving care, and
  • C3(c): those living together as a single household who do not fall within the C4 definition of a house in multiple occupation (HMO). i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.

Class C4 – Any house in Multiple Occupation

Any small shared dwelling houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Properties with more than six occupiers

Continue to be outside any planning category.

This reclassification brings the definition of HMO for the purposes of planning in line with those used in the Housing Act 2004.

Properties to be rented to three or more sharers regardless of whether they are an HMO that requires a licence (bigger, 5 person 3 storey accommodation) now require a planning approval for Class C4 status.

  • Property that was already let as an HMO on 5th April 2010 automatically assumes this Class C4 status.
  • If the property were let to a family on that date but now the intention is to let to 3 or more persons (made up of more than 2 households) then a planning application will need to be made to obtain Class C4 status.
  • If an HMO is then let to a family the change of use from C4 to C3 is allowed under permitted development.

We do not currently know how the planning department will monitor this. One hypothesis is that enforcement will be complaints driven.

What is certain is that this restriction could have a very unsettling effect on the values of properties where prices have risen as a result of investment landlords who may now decide that yield are too small to invest. Indeed there is a possibility that any existing Class C4 dwelling could now have a premium attached to it. We would be happy to help if you are concerned about where to live in Oxford.