Houses in Multiple Occupancy

Breaking news:

On 30 November 2014 BCC brought into force an Article 4 Direction covering parts of Selly Oak, Harborne and Edgbaston. After this date properties in the area covered cannot be converted from domestic residences (use class C3) to small houses in multiple occupancy (use class C4) without planning permission. BCC have set a threshold of 10% of properties within a 100m radius beyond which they will be inclined to reject applications for C3->C4 conversions.

If a house near you converts to a C4 Small HMO you can check to see if it has permission here (see below) or by emailing You can also comment on applications for conversions on the planning website.

If you believe that a house near you has converted to a C4 Small HMO you can report using the form at the bottom of the council's planning enforcement page.

The council will use various datasets to determine the current density of HMO occupation in your area. However, in making representations to council it might be helpful if you provide an independent estimate of the number of HMOs (large and small) close to the property in question.

- A house may be in the process of conversion from C3 to C4 if advertised as 'To Let' with the number of rooms listed or if advertised as 'for students only'.
- C4 use includes 3 to 6 unrelated people sharing amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.
- Houses occupied by more than 6 unrelated people (Large HMO) do not fall into any specific use class and require planning permission on an individual basis. If you suspect a house has converted to a large HMO you should investigate / report as above.
- Planning permission is also required to split a house is into multiple self contained units.
- Houses already in multiple occupancy at 30/11/2014 will not require permission. 
- Landlords should secure permission before letting properties to avoid the unnecessary eviction of tenants.
- Houses rented to families and couples (married or not) fall into class C3 and do not require permission.


The Community Partnership for Selly Oak is very concerned about the continued spread of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (houses rented to 3 or more unrelated people). We are particularly concerned at the number of properties currently being converted for 6 or more people when students surveys indicate a desire to live in groups of 4 or 5. We are also concerned at the number of planning, building regulation, health and safety, and environmental health infringements associated with these conversions.

There are a number of myths about the supply of HMO accommodation.

1] Student numbers in the city are growing. While once true recent figures suggest that students numbers have stabilized in recent years. Occasional increases are balanced by occasional decreases. This likely reflects the fact that the national student market has saturated. Almost all of the population who could benefit from University education now take up the chance. 

2] Birmingham has around 55,000 students chasing 15,000 purpose build rooms - across the whole city (this is often cited as a reason for establishing more HMOs). These figures do not tell the whole story. The Universities only aim to house first year students in halls. Taking into account post graduate students the 55,000 student figure suggests between 10,000 - 15,000 first year students in the city. Further, many University students in the City live at home.

3] There is a shortage of rented accommodation in Selly Oak: The University of Birmingham has around 25,000 students of which 18,000 are undergraduates. That's about 6,000 per year of study and around 12,000 in years 1 and 2. If around 1/5 of these live at home there will be about 10,000 students looking for rented houses in the Selly Oak area. We estimate that there are about 2,000 rented houses in Bournbrook and Selly Oak with an average of 6 rooms in each (some converted houses have up to 10 rooms) giving an estimated 13,800 rooms. So there is a surplus of rented accommodation in Selly Oak.

In 2014 the University of Birmingham had a shortfall of some 400 rooms for first year students and contacted landlords to find rented accommodation. This is cited as evidence for a shortage of accommodation. However, these students were found rooms within 2 days. As this was in September there must have been 400 rooms spare in Selly Oak at that point. If there were a shortage these students would not have been found rooms. In other University towns where this has happened there has been chaos with students sleeping in sports halls or staying with their tutors. The speed with which the students were found rooms in Selly Oak demonstrates an over supply of rented accommodation not an under sypply.

Reliable sources indicate that many landlords are finding it hard to let houses or to sell them when they want to cash in their investments. Houses beyond Exeter Road being particularly hard to sell / let. That houses are not selling demonstrates that students houses are difficult to covert back to family residences.