Reasons to choose Wilson Browne
The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme was announced on 14 March 2022 by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove.
The scheme allows UK property owners to volunteer a room or self-contained property for an identified Ukrainian national and their immediate family to live in for a minimum of six months. The scheme will also offer a three-year visa to recipients, along with healthcare, benefits, employment and education support and English tuition.
Property owners considering offering their property for this scheme are unlikely to be considering the planning position of such an offering, but there are some issues for owners to be aware of which may merit either seeking some comfort from the local planning and house of multiple occupation (HMO) licensing authority, or some clarification from the Government in terms of the flexible application of the planning and HMO licensing regimes to facilitate the Homes for Ukraine scheme and ensure its success.
What are the planning considerations for the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme?
The situation is a fast moving one, as this scheme is described as phase one. Additionally, while there is a government FAQs page online, this states that there will be ‘detailed guidance’ on the scheme in the ‘coming days’.
For the moment, on the information available, the property owner will need to consider whether the property would require a licence and planning permission to provide a HMO. There is no detail currently on whether multiple families or individuals would be housed together or if each family would have its own home, or a combination of both as resource and need dictates.
There is a reference in the FAQs to hosts receiving payment to ‘accommodate one or more household (subject to the accommodation they have)’, which suggests that multiple Ukrainian households could be accommodated in a single property.
To determine if planning permission is needed for a HMO use, the host must first consider whether there will be shared facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen. If so, the property may be a HMO if let to multiple people separately.
The next consideration is the size of the property, as there are two types of HMOs, determined by the number of parties it is let to, and each is treated differently. Small HMOs are properties which accommodate up to six unrelated individuals or families.
A small HMO is a use within Class C4 of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, SI 1987/764 (the Use Classes Order):
‘Use of a dwellinghouse by not more than six residents as a “house in multiple occupation”.’
However, it is also possible that a use by six related or unrelated individuals if they were living together as a single household would not be considered a HMO; Class C3(c) of the Use Classes Order provides:
‘(c) not more than six residents living together as a single household where no care is provided to residents (other than a use within Class C4).’
A large HMO is a property accommodating more than six unrelated individuals or families and this does not fall within a specific use class.
HMO licensing is regulated under the Housing Act 2004 and is separate from the planning regime. In simple terms, there is mandatory licensing for large HMOs of five or more separate families or individuals not living as a single household but sharing facilities.
A local authority can also adopt ‘additional’ HMO licensing for three people or more not living together as a single household but sharing facilities. Checks should be made with each relevant local authority to confirm licensing requirements. This can be common in, for example, university towns and cities.
In planning terms, generally, if the property has been occupied by one family previously or has planning permission as a single dwelling (a C3(a) use), then a change to a use within Class C3(c) will not be a material change of use, as this is a change within a use class, and such a change does not require planning permission.
Where is property in C3(a) use is changed to a small HMO in C4 use (and vice versa) then this will be permitted development, and will not require planning permission as this change falls within Class L of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, SI 2015/596 .
However Article 4 of the Use Classes Order allows a local planning authority to make a direction that these permitted development rights do not apply in their area. This should be checked, as if such a direction applies, planning permission would be needed to change a home from C3 use to a small HMO C4 use.
Any change from a single dwelling to a large HMO will, however, require planning permission.
While there are two options for hosts (either to provide their room or property for free, or for a monthly £350 flat payment) hosting refugees for free would not appear to affect the planning position, as the Use Classes Order refers only to ‘residents’ rather than tenants, or similar terms.
Clearly any property owner considering the scheme should bear in mind the potential planning/HMO implications and liaise with their local planning authority and take advice from a planning consultant if necessary.