The Housing Minister has announced that local authorities are to be given the power to decide whether Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) will require planning permission. Currently, landlords have to apply for planning permission when turning any property into an HMO: the Minister has said that relaxing this requirement could cut 8,500 applications from the system.

Grant Shapps said: "Councils understand their local area best, and they don't need burdensome rules that assume housing issues in every town, village and hamlet are exactly the same. I am also committed to safeguard the supply of rented housing - shared homes are vital for people who want to live and work in towns and cities, and are important to the economy.

"That's why I'm giving councils greater flexibility to manage shared homes in their local area. Where there are local issues with shared homes, councils will have all the tools they need to deal with the problem - but they will avoid getting bogged down in pointless applications, and landlords won't be put off renting shared homes where they are needed."

The changes mean that landlords will be able to turn dwelling houses into HMOs without requiring planning permission, unless the local authority has decided there is a problem with HMO proliferation in the area. Landlords will still, therefore, need to be aware that this is a regulation that might apply to them, and check before they change a property's use. We're all for less red tape - goodness knows, the PRS has enough of it - but there is still potential for confusion here, especially for landlords whose properties span more than one area. Landlords letting in London, for example, could easily find that practically neighbouring properties are governed by entirely different regulations.

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