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Check if you need planning permission

Find out if the work you want to do requires permission.

You should find out if you need planning permission before starting any building work.

If you go ahead without permission, you may have to put things back to how they were. 

You’re likely to need planning permission if you intend to:

  • construct a new building
  • alter the external appearance of an existing building
  • extend a property
  • convert a house into flats
  • change the use of a building or land

The Planning Portal’s guidance on planning permission has a tool for common projects in a:

Permitted development

Some alterations, extensions or changes of use do not need planning permission. This is called 'permitted development'.  

To confirm that your proposal is permitted development, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate on the Planning Portal.

Different rules apply if you live in a conservation area, or your property is listed.

You should use our pre-application advice service to discuss your proposal first.

Conservation areas and listed properties.

Planning permission for homeowners

If your property is a ‘single dwelling house’ (not a flat or maisonette) you can make various changes under permitted development. See the interactive detached house on the Planning Portal.

Permitted development rights: technical guidance.

However, you will usually require planning permission if your property:

  • is a flat or maisonette
  • is a listed building
  • is in a conservation area
  • has an Article 4 direction in place

Pre-application advice service

Planning permission for businesses

You’ll normally need planning permission to put tables and chairs on the highway outside your premises. This is because it involves a change to the use of that land. The term 'highway' includes the carriageway and footway, alleys, and passageways. You may not require planning permission if all the land is on a private forecourt.

For example, if the use of the tables and chairs is an extension of the ground floor use of the premises. However, you will require a Highway Amenities Licence from us.

Projects that normally have permitted development rights (do not need permission):

  • adverts and signs
  • working from home

Check if you need planning permission for common business projects on the government’s Planning Portal.

Changing the use of land and buildings

Uses of land and buildings are put into categories called 'use classes'. Usually, you’ll need planning permission to change from one kind of use to another. There are a few exceptions where the legislation allows some changes between uses.

You don’t need planning permission if:

  • both the present and proposed uses fall within the same ‘use class’, or
  • the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 says that a change of use is permitted to another specified class

For example:

  • a bakery could be changed to a shoe shop without permission, as these uses fall within the same class
  • a restaurant could become a shop or an estate agent as a Use Class Order allows this change without planning permission

Information about change of use see the Planning Portal

Other consents you may need

Building control

If you’re making structural changes to an existing property or building a new property, you may need building control approval.  

Highways

If you’re making changes to the road or pavement outside your property, you may require dropped kerbs consent

Licensing

Depending on the use of your premises, you may need to apply for a licence

Houses in Multiple Occupation

Background to use classes order

For planning, land uses are classified in groups, set out in the Use Classes Order 1987. Some uses are outside any Use Class. These are called sui generis (a use of its own).

In 2010, government introduced a new Use Class, C4, for small houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with between three and six unrelated occupants. 

Use Class

Definition

C3

Dwelling house

C3(a)

Use by a single person or family and in limited other circumstances (as defined in Housing Act above and related legislation)

C3 (b)

Up to 6 people living together as single household and receiving care

C3 (c)

Up to 6 people living together as single household that don’t fall into C4 (for example, small religious community, homeowner + up to two lodgers)

C4 Small HMO

Shared house occupied by 3 – 6 unrelated individuals sharing basic amenities

Sui generis (a class of its own)

Large HMO (more than 6 unrelated people living together)

What is the current position with regards to HMOs and Planning?

In 2010, the government extended permitted development rights to allow all changes between the C4 and C3 classes. However, local authorities can use Article 4 powers to remove these rights in areas where there is a need to control HMO development.

Since 16 September 2014, an Article 4 Direction has been in place across Waltham Forest. This means you'll need planning permission to change use of any building to either a small or a large HMO.

Landlords: Your questions answered

I let out a property. Is it an HMO?

If you let a property in which three to six unrelated people live, who share amenities, it’s likely to be an HMO. This is under Use Class C4: Houses in Multiple Occupation. If there are more than six occupants, it's probably a ‘large HMO’ (sui generis) outside C4. You need planning permission to change existing dwelling houses to HMOs and large HMOs.

What do you mean by ‘unrelated’?

‘Unrelated’ means the occupants are not related by blood, marriage, or cohabitation. For live-in staff, see below:

S258 of the Housing Act 2004 has the following definitions of related:

(a) ‘couple’ means two persons who are married to, or civil partners of, each other or live together as a married couple or civil partners

(b) ‘relative’ means parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or cousin

(c) a relationship of the half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood; and

(d) the stepchild of a person shall be treated as their child.

What do you mean by ‘basic amenities’?

‘Basic amenities’ means a toilet, personal washing facilities, or cooking facilities.

When do I need planning permission for an HMO in Waltham Forest?

You require planning permission to change any existing use (including dwelling houses) to either a small HMO (Use Class C4) or large HMO (sui generis).

What if I only let to students and this is not their only home?

The property will still fall into Use Class C4 (three to six occupants) or Sui Generis HMO (more than six occupants). Students, as well as migrants or asylum seekers, who don’t live in the property all year around, are considered residents.

We assume that three to six unrelated people sharing a house would be a Use Class C4 HMO. However, it may possibly be a Use Class C3 or sui generis use. 

I have live-in domestic staff that do not pay rent. Is this an HMO?

According to law, to be an HMO, rent must be paid by at least one tenant. If someone is get accommodation through their job,  it may be an HMO on the nature of their work.

Certain live-in domestic employees are considered part of a single household where they reside with their employer. This is likely to fall within Use Class C3(a).

What if I share my property with a lodger?

If you live with no more than two lodgers, it is considered a dwelling house within Use Class C3. This applies to both resident owners and long leaseholders (over 21 years).

What if I provide care to residents?

If no more than six residents live together as a single household and receive care, the use is likely to be C3(b) rather than C4. However, you may wish to seek further advice from the Planning Department.

What if I want to change an HMO back into a single dwelling house?

To change a small C4 HMO into a single dwelling house does not require planning permission. However, you will need permission to change an authorised large HMO in a single dwelling house.

DM6 - Dwelling Conversions, HMOs, and Buildings in Multiple Residential Occupation

We don’t permit conversion of larger home(s) to smaller self-contained homes, Houses in Multiple Occupation and Buildings in Multiple Residential Occupation unless:

i) It has a gross original internal floor space of less than 124sqm (as originally built)

ii) It is located within a 'Restricted Dwelling Conversion, HMO and Building in Multiple Residential Occupation Ward'. (Fourteen wards in the south of the borough)

iii) It leads to an over concentration of conversions in one street (generally defined as over 50% of properties).

iv) Appropriate off-street parking spaces cannot be provided

Outside these 14 wards, we will permit such conversions of homes with a gross internal floor space of over 124sqm where:

i) They meet the minimum space standards in tables 7.1 and 7.2 and tables 8.1, 8,2 and 8.3 in DM7 where applicable

ii) The conversion to smaller homes (C3) creates at least one larger family sized home of 74sqm (3-bed plus). This must be ground floor with access to a dedicated rear garden.

iii) It is near to public transport, shops. and services

iv) It respects and reflects the original architecture

v) It provides high quality doors and windows

vi) It is well insulated from noise

vii) It provides good refuse and storage facilities.

Development Management Policies Local Plan Adoption Version (PDF)

Policy 32 – ‘Housing in Multiple Occupation and Conversions’ of our new Draft Local Plan (July 2019) takes into account the new legislation.

Policy 32 Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and Conversions

A. The conversion of larger home(s) to smaller self-contained homes, Houses in Multiple Occupation and Buildings in Multiple Residential Occupation won’t be allowed where:

i) It has a gross original internal floor space of less than 124sqm

ii) It will lead to an over concentration of conversions in one street or in the wider local area

B. Conversions of homes with a gross original internal floorspace of more than 124 sqm will only be permitted where:

i) It provides at least one larger family sized home of 74sqm (3 bed plus)

ii) It is a high-quality design standard

iii) It is car free

iv) Adequate cycle parking is provided on site

v) It is close to public transport (PTAL 3 and above)

vi) It provides good refuse and storage facilities

vii) It includes appropriate outdoor or amenity space

C. Conversions of homes with a gross original internal floorspace of more than 124 sqm into HMOs will only be permitted where:

i) It is car free

ii) Adequate cycle parking is provided on site

iii) It is close to public transport (PTAL 3 and above)

iv) It provides good refuse and storage facilities

v) It includes appropriate outdoor or amenity space.

Read our Waltham Forest Draft Local Plan (July 2019)

I’m unsure if my property is authorised in planning terms as an HMO?

To get a definitive legal answer, you should apply for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use. The fee for this is the same as a planning application (currently £462).

Our adopted local validation requirements list is a technical document explaining what  to include with your planning application. For a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use, you must supply the following:

  • Completed Application Form
  • Appropriate Fee (currently £462)
  • Location Plan
  • Existing and Proposed Elevations (at a 1:50 or 1:100 scale). Required for applications involving alterations to the external appearance of the building.
  • Existing and Proposed Floor Plans including roof plan (at a 1:50 or 1:100 scale)
  • Existing and Proposed Sections (at a 1:50 or 1:100 scale). Required for applications involving alterations to the external appearance of the building.
  • Photographs/CGIs

Supporting Information for existing uses/developments could include:

  • Dated utility bills per unit
  • Confirmation from utility service provider showing meter installation dates for each unit
  • Receipts for building works, materials, or labour linked with the conversion
  • Receipts for facilities, kitchens, white goods, and bathrooms
  • Tenancy agreements
  • Managing agents’ agreements
  • Council Tax bills per unit
  • Building Regulation certificates
  • Electoral Register details per unit
  • Land registry
  • Tax return details, bank statements
  • Landlords Insurance

How is an application for a lawful development certificate determined?

According to National Planning Practice Guidance, a local planning authority must decide using the facts and planning law. Planning merits are not relevant to this process.

The person applying for the Lawful Development Certificate for an existing use must show the correct evidence. If not, the local planning authority may refuse the certificate – even if it is lawful.

Do I need planning permission and a license for my C4 / Sui Generis HMO?

There is a difference between the law on HMO licensing and planning law as it applies to HMOs. Both set out to do different things.

Licensing law is there mainly to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the occupants of an HMO. Planning legislation meanwhile is intended to control the use of property in the wider public interest.

If you have an HMO licence, you might still need planning permission, and may not get it automatically. Likewise, if you have planning permission to use a property as an HMO, you might still require an HMO licence. This may not automatically be granted.

In determining a property licence application, we normally consider the planning status of the building. If an HMO lacks planning permission, and an established HMO use can't be proved, we usually grant a reduced term licence. We may also refuse a licence.

Most HMOs in Waltham Forest will require a licence under one of our licensing schemes.

Houses in multiple occupation

Contact Private Sector Housing and Licensing