HMO Article 4 Directions

Understanding the rules

Whilst you generally need planning permission to carry out development, for which you apply to the local planning authority, Parliament has legislated to state that for many types of minor development planning permission is not required.

For example, currently a change of use from a single dwelling house (use class C3) to a small HMO shared by three to six unrelated residents (use class C4) does not require planning permission.

Planning permission will always be required when changing a single dwelling house to a larger HMO as this falls into a separate ‘sui-generis’ use class.

However, if the local planning authority believes that in their area, or part of it, there is robust evidence to justify the withdrawal of this permitted development right, they can use an Article 4 direction under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 to do so.

Generally, the procedure followed allows for a consultation period, after which the direction will be confirmed, and it will then come into force on a specified date. In a conservation area, or in an area within a conservation area, however, or where the local planning authority considers that the proposed development could be prejudicial to the proper planning of the area or cause a threat to amenities, it can make an Article 4 direction which comes into force immediately to remove specified permitted development rights. 

The direction does not apply retrospectively so any development undertaken before it came into force is not affected. Therefore, if the authorised use of a property as an HMO has commenced before the date the Article 4 direction takes effect, you will not need planning permission as a result of the direction.

However, where an Article 4 direction is in force, if a property is occupied as an HMO without planning permission for that use, and if it does not benefit from a continuous use as an HMO for 10 years, it will require planning permission.

For the property owner, the effect of an Article 4 direction is not to withdraw the right to carry out any operational development or a change of use. Instead, it means that where a direction is in force and relates, for example, to the conversion from a single dwelling house to a small HMO, this change of use will now require planning permission.

In limited circumstances, such as where planning permission is refused for development that would have been permitted if it were not for the Article 4 direction, a local planning authority may be liable to pay compensation to landowners.   

The local planning authority must notify the Secretary of State when it is making an Article 4 direction, but it does not need ministerial approval. The direction can be in force permanently, but it should be cancelled if the reasons why it was made are no longer valid.

This guidance has been prepared by our colleagues at Fortune Green Legal Practice and you can visit their website at We are very grateful for their assistance.

To make your life a little easier, we have mapped out the HMO Article 4 Directions across every London Borough. You can find the information by clicking on the ‘Select Borough’ link above and choosing the borough you are interested in.

Whilst we are unable to provide bespoke advice on planning issues, you can find planning advisors listed in our Landlord Suppliers Directory (here).

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Please note that the information is subject to change and so it is important to contact the relevant council to confirm the current arrangements before you embark on a new HMO development. Please also refer to our disclaimer below.