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Restrictions on new HMOs in Cardiff

Restrictions on new HMOs in Cardiff

Cardiff Council are currently consulting on a new draft Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) that will severely restrict new HMOs in Cardiff, particularly in Cathays and Plasnewydd.

The Consultation details how the Council will assess applications for planning permission, which developers and landlords will have to obtain for new HMOs in Cardiff.

So what does this mean? Well, quite a lot actually, and landlords and investors are right to be very concerned.

Firstly, the SPG creates “HMO thresholds” to control the number of new HMOs popping up around Cardiff. According to the SPG, “Cardiff is the location for a disproportionate number of HMOs.”

Cardiff Council is now going to try to control the total concentration of HMOs in a given area by denying landlords in those areas planning permission to move between HMO classes if the concentration for that area has already been met, and the property falls within 50m radius of the designated area. The threshold for Cathays and Plasnewyedd is 20 percent and in all other wards 10 percent. According to the consultation document,

This means that within Cathays and Plasnewydd, if more than 20% of the dwellings within a 50m radius of the proposed HMO are already licenced HMOs, then this development would be considered unacceptable.

Secondly, the SPG details specific design guidance for proposed HMOs, which is summarised below.

Please note: the document details strict planning requirements that, if not adhered to, will result in the denial of your application.

Room Sizes and Facilities

Gives specific references to the number of bathrooms, toilets, kitchen facilities, and the size of rooms within HMOs.

Ceiling height requirements: “a height appropriate to afford a good standard of living must be demonstrated as part of the application.”

Recycling and Refuse Storage

Waste stored in frontages must be “suitably contained” within bins, provided by the landlord in bag areas, or by Cardiff Council in bin areas.

Gives specific guidance on the provision of waste storage facilities for larger HMOs. Planning documents that cannot demonstrate suitable storage space for recycling and waste will be refused. Particular care should be given to the siting and appearance of refuse storage in conservation areas.

Amenity Space

Minimum expected external useably amenity space for C3 dwellings (up to 6 people): 25 square metres. Will also apply to C4 properties, with each additional person expected to have 2.5 square metres. E.g. 7 bed HMO would be 27.5 square metres of external amenity space.


Parking provision should be effectively incorporated into the design of the development. Consideration to boundary treatments and pedestrian access will be given. Consideration of proposals for new front or rear parking spaces utilising existing non-parking space, will be balanced against the need to provide private amenity space.

Cycle Storage

Cycle storage inside the property should have easy access to the street and be located as close as possible to the main entrance and avoid blocking circulation spaces. No storage in communal hallways, stairways, or landings. Storage should be secure, sheltered and adequately lit, with easy access to the street. No storage in habitable rooms. Parking and storage provision should be considered into the design of an HMO from the outset.


Design and layout should minimise potential for noise nuisance. Planning conditions may be attached to any permission granted to ensure that “adequate noise insulation” is achieved.

Light and Outlook

All habitable rooms must have natural light as a means of outlook, light, and ventilation. Rooms should be arranged in a manner that maximises the living standards of occupants, preventing the overlooking of neighbouring properties, and avoiding bedrooms facing high boundary walls.


HMOs above shops/offices should have their own separate access to the street frontage. Access to building should be through the front door with direct access from the street entrance or a shared entrance hallway off the street entrance. All entrances should be visible, well-lit, secure, and clearly numbered.

Rear or side access should only be used as the primary access if it’s well-lit and already extensively used for this purpose. External staircase at the back of the building, via a back alley are not acceptable as the main access as they cause a loss of privacy for neighbouring properties.

External and internal alterations impacting on external appearance

If floor levels altered, the impact on the appearance from the street must be considered, with the lower floor level not visible to those using the street. Best achieved by using obscured glazing.

In cases where appropriate to split larger rooms into smaller rooms, care must be taken to ensure that new windows align with the divided room. Materials should be durable and low maintenance planning is preferred. Retention of any existing gardens is strongly favoured, for amenity value, biodiversity and to assist in flood prevention.

New HMOs will need to have consideration in respect of designing out crime, and the creation of safe environments.

If you are unsure of your responsibilities or how the new C4 planning could affect you, please get in contact with one of our property consultants.

Take a look at our other informative blog on Rent Smart Wales.

James Douglas