BPF wins concession on shared homes crackdown

17 Jun 2010

Policy area: Planning, Residential

The British Property Federation (BPF) has today welcomed a move by Housing Minister Grant Shapps to undo top-down legislation brought in under Labour that would require all new landlords of homes shared by three or more people to obtain planning permission on the property.

From today, councils will individually be able to choose whether to place the requirement on property owners locally – a concession likely to be widely welcomed given that councils are unlikely to want the extra burden of 8,500 additional planning applications.

Changes to legislation will give councils the freedom to choose areas where landlords must submit a planning application to rent their properties to unrelated tenants – known as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

This will enable high concentrations of HMOs to be controlled where local authorities decide there is a problem, but will prevent landlords across the country being driven from the rental market by high costs and red tape.

It is estimated that as many as 8,500 planning applications could be submitted each year if every landlord looking to turn their property into a HMO is first required to seek permission – instead, councils will be able to focus their efforts in particular neighbourhoods where HMOs present a problem, while landlords of HMOs in other areas will not be tied up in red tape.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

“Councils know about local issues with shared homes, and don’t need top-down rules from Whitehall to deal with problems that don’t exist. Where too many shared homes are causing problems for other residents or changing the character of a neighbourhood, councils should be able to control their spread. But I’m not going to create unnecessary costs for landlords, which puts the supply of rented homes at risk."

“That’s why I’m giving councils the power to decide whether to use the planning system to control the spread of shared housing where it is a problem.  This will give them the flexibility to make decisions that are right for their communities, rather than stifling the rental market with unnecessary costs and red tape."

“Shared homes ensure people who want to live and work in towns and cities can do so, and are vital to the economy. These changes will safeguard the supply of shared housing where it is needed without burdening landlords with cumbersome red tape – but will also hand councils the flexibility they need to tackle problems where they occur.”

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said:

“Grant Shapps has taken quick and decisive action after this law was rushed through in April without sufficient clarification. At a time when council resource is scarce and housing is needed it makes no sense to be forcing thousands of local landlords and planning officers to be engaged in unnecessary bureaucracy. The Minister said last week that deregulation would characterise his approach to the private rented sector and as with other moves to cut red tape, these are further welcome steps.”

Removing this one blanket requirement follows the Government’s commitment to scrap one size fits-all solutions in the planning system that create unnecessary bureaucracy and costs for councils and businesses.