Local Government Regulation and Enforcement

Birmingham to introduce city-wide Article 4 Direction

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

Landlords who want to convert family homes in Birmingham into small HMOs will need to submit planning applications to do so under new plans revealed by the city council.

The local authority plans to introduce a city-wide Article 4 Direction, removing ‘permitted development rights’ for small HMOs, so that planning permission must be obtained before development can take place. 

Birmingham City Council is inviting public comments as part of a six-week consultation which began on June 6 and will close on 18 July.

It said these comments will be taken in to account when the direction is confirmed later this year. 

Following confirmation, the direction will come in to force on 8 June 2020. 

Why is the council introducing the new rules?

The council says high concentrations of HMOs ‘can have a negative impact on the character of neighbourhoods, residential amenity and create unbalanced communities’.

An existing Article 4, in place since 2014 and covering parts of Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston, will be revoked to make ways for the city-wide restriction. This will take place on the same day the new city-wide direction will come in to force.

How will the council decide which applications should be approved? 

 A new planning policy is being proposed, which recommends application are refused where the creation of a new HMO:

  • would mean multi-occupancy properties were forming more than 10% of homes in a 100m area
  • where a family house would be sandwiched between HMOs and other non-family housing, 
  • where there would be three of more non-family houses in a row. 

What does the RLA think?

RLA policy director David Smith said: “The RLA objects to any plans to introduce blanket regulation of this type.

“Small HMOs are an important part of the PRS, providing affordable housing for families and young people and we don’t support any moves to restrict tenancies to any demographic of tenant.

“Councils can tackle anti-social behaviour and the social problems related to it using enforcement powers they already have without making changes to planning regulations.”

What happens if conversion works are already underway?

Property owners or developers will be able to to complete any conversion works before the new rules come into force on 8 June 2020. After that date, all further proposed HMOs in the city will need to apply for planning permission. 

What if my home is already a HMO?

If your property is already a small HMO, planning permission is not required to continue this use. 

However, the local authority has told these landlords they must declare it, and provide details including the address of the property and evidence it is a HMO.

The council says it needs this information to ensure it has as much information as possible about existing HMOs in the city before the Article 4 Direction becomes enforceable.

How do I respond to the consultation?

For more about the consultation and how to submit comments click here.

Alternatively, you can also respond by email or post at the following addresses:

Email: planningstrategy@birmingham.gov.uk

Write to: Planning and Development, 1 Lancaster Circus, Birmingham, B4 7DJ.

  • The RLA will be responding to the consultation and will publish its response in full once it has been submitted.

Find out more:

To read more about Article 4 Directions click here.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Communications Manager for the RLA and award-winning Editor of RPI magazine. With 16 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and editorial content for our media partners.

She issues press releases promoting the work of the RLA and its policies and campaigns to the regional and national media and works alongside the marketing team on the association’s social media channels to build support for the RLA and its work.


  • As an employee at a letting agent, I wish my local council would implement something like this. Certain neighbourhoods become dumping grounds for people with problems such as low-income, mental health issues, or for ex-convicts. While these people do need places to stay, concentrating them all into a few neighbourhoods does no one any good.
    I feel sorry for anyone who lives in these places and is trying to shake a drug addiction – all the dealers are in these areas, because that’s where all their customers are.
    Obviously, not everyone living in an HMO is a trouble-maker. Part of the problems arise from the simple issue of having buildings occupied by 5 adults who work different hours instead of 2 adults & 2 children. Parking and waste disposal become problems.
    Another thing to consider is that the trouble-making portion of our society rarely do well for themselves. They are much more likely to have single bedroom/studio flats, or live in an HMO, than to live in a 4-bedroom house. Putting a high density of HMOs in an area leads to a concentration of those likely to be involved in low-level criminal behaviour. This is not fair on the law-abiding majority of people in HMOs. A similar phenomenon is the ‘sink estate’, where a neighbourhood is made up largely of people who are supported by the taxpayer. It’s not that everyone there is causing problems, but most of the people who cause problems are there.
    In my town, the HMO market has (thankfully) crashed due to a lack of demand. Many landlords are converting their properties back into family homes. Those who still run HMOs are finding it harder to find tenants, and the rents are going down.
    It is my opinion that putting so many people into single buildings is a bad idea. In the last decade or so, landlords have bought large buildings and converted them into as many dwellings as they legally could, whether as an HMO or studio flats. The result was a strain on public services in those areas where such buildings are in high concentration. Policing these areas became difficult. The sewer systems were not meant to take such a large amount of use, and a single blockage can now affect more people than before. Rubbish bins are routinely overflowing, and broken furniture regularly features at the fronts of these buildings.
    Sorry for the long post.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.