Planning Policy - Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

HMO policies fall under the responsibility of both Planning and Environmental Health. The responsibilities that fall under each are detailed below.


The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended in 2010), defines HMOs as houses which are inhabited by three or more unrelated people, as their only or main residence, who share one or more basic amenity (such as a kitchen). Two types of HMOs are identified:

  1. Small HMOs - those housing between three and six unrelated people (categorised under Class C4 of the Order) 
  2. Large HMOs - those housing more than six unrelated people (categorised under Class 'Sui Generis' of the Order)


Current national permitted development rights allow the change of a dwelling house (categorised under class C3 of the Order) to a small HMO without the requirement of planning permission. Planning permission is required to change a dwelling house (or a small HMO) to a large HMO.

An Article 4 Direction can be put in place to remove the permitted development right, meaning planning permission would need to be obtained to change a dwelling house to a small or large HMO. 
Harlow Council has two Article 4 Directions which relate to new HMOs in Morley Grove, Harlow. These Directions came into force on 1 July 2013. More information on Morley Grove Article 4 Directions

Environmental Health

Environmental Health ensures housing standards in HMOs are met, including fitness for occupation, space access to amenities and precautions in case of fire. A Council Working Group carried out a review of HMO policy and licensing, which included the involvement of relevant stakeholders. As a result, the Council has adopted an additional licensing scheme which ensures that all HMO properties are licensed. More information about housing standards in HMOs, including Licensing