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Covenant control


HMO covenants

There may be restrictive covenants on properties in Harlow built by Harlow Development Corporation or by Harlow Council, which mean that the property can only be used as a single-family dwelling. This means it cannot be converted to a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Our policy is to not release the covenants that are enforceable by Harlow Council. We may consider a variation for temporary use as an HMO, but only in exceptional circumstances.

Before you can apply for an HMO licence, you will have to show that the property you plan to use is not covered by covenants restricting its use to a single-family dwelling.


If you want to apply for a temporary variation of a covenant, we will assess your application by looking at the following criteria:

  • Location – when deciding if the location is acceptable, the main factors we consider may include, views of neighbours, proximity and number of existing HMO’s, potential parking problems, housing density and other social issues.
  • Tenants - you will be expected to legally guarantee that tenants will have employment in or connection to the local economy or a connection to an existing family group or close family member in Harlow. This will be written into any deed of variation for modification of covenant.
  • Accommodation – the property must meet our minimum amenity standards for HMOs (pdf) in terms of individual and communal facilities and these should include bicycle storage. Tenancy agreements need to clearly set out the responsibilities for maintaining the internal and external facilities. We may need a report by an independent building surveyor.

You will need to meet all the points above for your application to be considered. 


To apply for the variation of a covenant relating to HMO, you need to:

  • be the property owner
  • send a completed HMO covenant control permission application form (pdf) to our Covenant Control team (contact details below)
  • provide evidence that neighbours have been consulted as part of the application process
  • pay a non-refundable fee of £153 to process the application
  • provide details of the status of the property transaction (have you completed the sale, and when, have contracts been exchanged or are you applying before purchasing the property?)

You need to call 01279 446655 to pay the fee by debit or credit card.

Once payment has been accepted, please email quoting the payment reference number.

We will assess your application and the council’s portfolio holder for environment will make the final decision as to whether or not to vary the covenant.

If we grant approval, we will then need to agree the detailed wording of the covenant variation between your legal representative and the council’s Legal Services team.

Once you have approval, you are then able to apply for an HMO licence as normal.

If your application is successful, the covenant variation applies to you as an individual applicant - the variation cannot automatically be transferred to another landlord.

Contact information

Covenant Control
Harlow Council
Civic Centre
The Water Gardens
College Square
Harlow CM20 1WG