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Planning and HMOs: Children Count……… as Residents

Paramaguru v Ealing LBC ([2018] EWHC 373 (Admin) (27 February 2018)

 

The High Court has ruled that children under 18 are ‘residents’ for the purpose of calculating how many people live in a house in multiple occupation.

Background

HMOs occupied by more than 6 residents are known as "large" HMOs and require planning permission; those occupied by six or fewer residents are known as "small" HMOs and do not require permission (the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 Sch.1 Pt 3 para.4 (Class C4)).

The house in this case was an HMO housing 6 adults and 4 young children and there was no planning permission. Mr Paramaguru, the landlord, took no action when served with an enforcement notice by the local authority, taking the view that children did not count as residents. He was then prosecuted.

The Magistrates’ Court ruled on the preliminary issue that children were residents; upon which Mr Paramaguru entered a guilty plea and was committed to the Isleworth Crown Court under s.70 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) for confiscation proceedings to be considered, and sentence. He appealed by way of case stated.

Discussion

The focus on regulation of the HMO sector continues and landlords need to be aware of, and comply with, the licensing and other requirements including planning. Failure to do so will result in large civil fines (Since April 2017) or criminal prosecutions and possible conviction. The sanctions also include rent rebate orders and confiscation proceedings; thus any income, possibly more, may have to be repaid.

It is likely that other landlords may not have considered children as residents, or alternatively be monitoring their HMOs for births. Solicitors should: advise their clients to check the number of residents; ensure that new leases/licences limit the number of occupants including children and/or contain notification requirements ; and bizarre as it sounds, consider implementing a census procedure where appropriate.

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