Over the past few years planning legislation has been simplified to enable householders to expand their dwelling (within strict limits) without the need to apply for planning permission. This relaxation was particularly aimed at growing families. The attic could be converted into an additional bedroom (with a window on the rear elevation), a small extension could be added to extend the kitchen or add a bathroom on the first floor.

Unfortunately this permitted development has been exploited by some landlords, particularly when converting small starter homes (terraced houses) into Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). Providing the extension is at the rear of the property, no higher than the existing and extends no further than three metres into the garden (with first floor windows on the side of the extension fitted with obscure glazing) then, with careful understanding of the various restrictions, it fits within Permitted Development rights.

On the one hand this allows additional 'homes' to be added to the country's housing stock. However, in many cases it allows too many individual tenants to be squeezed into a small property (where the lack of amenity space and access to the basic necessities is restricted). We have heard of cases where nine bedrooms can be squeezed into an extended two bedroom terraced house.

Such property never appears in an estate agents window as such, but they are frequently advertised on social media as 'House share'. You will get your own individual locked bedroom, but rarely are the number of people sharing the same facilities mentioned.

Houses in Multiple Occupancy need a licence issued by the local authority, together with smoke alarms throughout, a gas safety certificate and an electricity compliance notice. None of which prevents overcrowding, too many people sharing bedrooms and beds, or even sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs! Tomorrow’s slums in the making.          

John Norman

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