Convoluted Planning/HMO situation - help/thoughts, please?

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    Convoluted Planning/HMO situation - help/thoughts, please?

    Before I start, this is for a friend who I've been helping out over the last few years (no money, or anything in it for me!). Him, wife and 2 kids (this bit's important later!).

    They bought their house around 15 years ago, nice 3-bed house, end of terrace in a nice bit of SW London. This is their residential property/home - not an investment, etc.

    Few years ago, they applied for planning permission for a 2-floor side and rear extension. Success.

    Various delays, etc mean that the house is still not completed in terms of building work, but it's on its way. Building regs very happy. All good so far.

    As the extended house is too big, they wanted to be able to split the unit into two so they could rent out half while living in the other. So, they applied for PP for splitting the building into two units - two 3-bed flats, one upstairs one downstairs. PP rejected because the council wants to keep a family and house-orientated street, rather than having houses being flipped to flats. They also received a coldcall/letter from one of the hawkish architects that claimed they could have the decision overturned on appeal. After a hefty fee, appeal was rejected. Surprise surprise.

    Their original architect suggested that they turn the house into a HMO, while living downstairs to get around the rejected PP and still be able to rent out some of the house.

    Upstairs and downstairs each have their own kitchen, living space, bathrooms, etc.

    HMO Licensing officer came round and inspected and, having been told the story above, seemed to consider the first floor as being a completely separate unit from downstairs. I.e. that they could rent out rooms to up to 5 people without the need for an HMO license. This feels odd because the house is not two units, but is rather one single unit. HMO Licensing also actively encouraged giving upstairs their own front door, and is saying the only approval you'll need is from Building Regs.

    HMO Licensing are refusing to put their advice in writing.

    My interpretation of the HMO rules is that as soon as they let out two rooms upstairs, then they are in need of a HMO license as the total number of people living in the unit will now be six. Is this correct?

    So this leaves my friend in a bit of a tricky situation - they are being told by HMO Licensing they they don't need a license and that upstairs can be pretty much used as a separate unit, although PP for this has been rejected. As far as I'm concerned, the dialogue with the Planning department is over. And Building Regs are happy.

    He, rightly, feels stuck between council departments, and isn't getting a straight answer out of anyone. Does anyone have any ideas as to what next?

    Are these any firms that we can get advice from?

    Thanks!

    #2
    I can't offer any specific advice, sorry, but it's typical of the council's right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!

    We have a similar but different situation locally.

    PP was achieved for conversion of a warehouse into a cafe/restaurant/bar. Planning conditions were put in place to restrict opening hours to 11pm because of the residential nature of the area. Fine.

    Along comes the Licensing Dept of the council and gives them a licence until 2 am...no joined up thinking at all. All this does is causes us to complain about noise late at night and for the landlord to say he has a licence so he can do what he wants within his licensed hours. We say not! We have to get the planning officer involved time and time again to re-assert the planning conditions which get cleverly forgotten everytime a new operator moves in, which is frequently because the businesses seem to fail regularly. It's now being used as a 'Gig' venue for crap bands. It's often loud enough to rattle my windows some 200yds away...that wasn't in the original planning application or approval!

    It just goes to show that there is no link between one department and another within our councils hence your HMO officer saying splitting a house into flats is OK. It isn't, you need full planning permission to do that.

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      #3
      It's ridiculous. I've had other run-ins with councils where departments don't communicate, let alone have any idea what the other is doing. Infuriating!

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        #4
        The EHO will give different advice to landlords in person to what he will give in writing. It's done to annoy landlords and cost them money altering things they thought were settled. Next license, there will be further alterations in the 'requirements'.

        However, it sounds like your friends did this extension purposely to split the house. If they wanted to be sure they could split it, they should have applied for that in the first place.

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