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Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD): public consultation

Introduction and policy background

The wider council policy context

Our Corporate Strategy sets out what we as a council plan to do, how we plan to do it, and how we will measure our performance. Our main aim is to improve people's lives, and we are following two core policies to do this: tackling the climate and nature emergency and giving people a bigger say. This consultation, and the planning policy it concerns, addresses both of these strategies:

  • It sets out policy to protect our heritage and natural environment, and to promote neighbourhoods with a balanced mix of good quality housing that meets local needs
  • It gives you an opportunity to comment on and shape the details of how we will assess new planning applications

The Planning policy context

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are properties with three or more people, from two or more families, living together. Typically, they are shared rentals which are occupied by groups of friends or students. You need planning permission to build a new HMO, or convert a standard residential property to use as an HMO. There are two potential issues we need to consider when creating Planning policy to control how and when we grant permission to create HMOs:

  • In areas with a high concentration of HMOs, there may be some impact on the character or heritage value of the area, or the amenity enjoyed by all residents (such as the quiet enjoyment of residential property). We want to define ways of measuring and controlling the concentration and location of HMOs.
  • We want to ensure that we only approve HMO proposals which guarantee a certain standard of accommodation and energy efficiency.

The current Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (adopted in 2017) accompanies Placemaking Plan Policy H2, and sets out our approach to the distribution of HMOs. It aims to encourage a sustainable community in Bath, by encouraging an appropriately balanced housing mix across the city, supporting a wide variety of households in all areas. The SPD does this by setting out criteria for assessing HMO planning applications.  

We are currently updating our Local Plan, including Policy H2. The main changes in this update are as follows: 

  • Widening the scope of existing Policy H2, to refer to new build HMOs, the change of use to HMO from other uses (such as previously commercial buildings), and the intensification of small HMOs (C4) to large HMOs (sui generis)
  • Introducing a policy requirement that all new HMOs achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of ‘C’ or above 
  • Introducing a policy requirement that all HMOs provide a good standard of accommodation 

We have updated the HMO SPD to provide additional guidance to support the policy updates proposed within the Local Plan Partial Update. We are also proposing small changes to how we measure and define the concentration of HMOs and their potential impact on other properties.