High Court ruling counts children as residents in HMOs

The High Court has confirmed that children under the age of 18 are ‘residents’ for planning purposes when calculating the total number of residents in a Class C4 HMO.

Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing

In the case of Paramaguru v London Borough of Ealing, Mr Justice Supperstone was asked by local landlord Sinnathurai Paramaguru to rule on the judgement made by Ealing Magistrates Court that children up to 18 years of age can be classified as residents under the jurisdiction of Class C4 of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes Order) 1987, and whether the magistrates had jurisdiction to state a case.

The court also charged Mr Paramaguru with one offence of breaching a planning enforcement notice contrary to section 179(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which required him to cease the use of his property as a Class C4 HMO.

Following this ruling by the magistrates’, Mr Paramaguru entered a guilty plea, where the case was subsequently referred to Isleworth Crown Court under section 70 of the proceeds of crime act 2002, where confiscation proceedings and furthering sentencing will be put to consideration, however the hearing has been adjourned pending the outcome of the appeal.

In his judgement, Justice Supperstone ruled that the magistrates were correct in their ruling that children under 18 count as ‘residents’ in these circumstances, agreeing with magistrates concerns of uncertainty, outlined in paragraph 7 of the case: "We strongly believe that Parliament did not intend to create a situation where you could have a property, for example the property we are dealing with, to have six adults and 40 children and still be within the law. If we were to find that children do not count that situation would be possible."

Continuing his ruling, Justice Supperstone argued that a ruling to the contrary position would introduce uncertainty in regards to local authority control of HMO’s, which are “likely to be made more difficult through the introduction of uncertainty… if they have to assess whether children are ‘young’ or ‘very young’.”

Read the full case hearing here.

Planning Changes

Since 2010 in England the introduction of the C4 Planning Use Class for small HMOs has meant that letting a house or flat to two or more households has represented a material change of use – technically requiring planning permission. Fortunately this is covered by general permitted development meaning that no application is required.

However, local authorities can designate an Article 4 Direction removing all permitted development rights, and subsequently require landlords to apply for planning permission before letting to sharers instead of a single household or family.

Applications for planning permission in Article 4 areas had been free, but due to recent changesa landlord may now have to pay a fee (increased to £462.00) for applying for a change of use in an area where permitted development has been withdrawn.
This change encourages local authorities to remove permitted development so they can gather a fee from landlords.

The Government is also strengthening the rules surrounding HMO standards and licensing for children, with Housing Minister Heather Wheeler introducing new measures effective in October that will dictate minimum room sizes, with rooms slept in by children 10 years or younger to be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.

Read more about the extension of mandatory HMO licensing here.

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