Even though the Article 4 Direction has been milling around the streets of Leeds since 10th February 2012, you'd be amazed at the number of landlords we speak to each month who have "never heard of it", which is quite astonishing considering the gravity of the implications of ignoring it.
In a nutshell, The Article 4 Direction removes permitted development rights to change the use of a property from a Class C3 (dwelling-house) into a Class C4 (House of Multiple Occupation) within a specified area as outlined by the Local Planning Authority. In other words, you can't buy a family house and rent it out to unrelated individuals without planning permission.
So what's the point of it? Well, it does serve a good purpose, and that is to ensure there is an even balance of housing within a specific area. For example, those of you that know Headingley and Hyde Park will know how densely populated it is by students and large HMO's, with very few family houses in sight. The Article 4 Direction has been put into place to ensure that no more Class C4 houses are developed in an attempt to bring back some balance to these areas. You know, kids playing outside and neighbors nattering over garden fences, rather than crumbling garden walls around overgrown gardens and cans being blown around the streets. Unfortunately for property developers and investors, the Article 4 Direction covers a much larger area than just Headingley and Hyde Park as you will see from the map here.
Whilst some people believe Article 4 Direction is a step in the right direction, there are definitely those whom oppose it. For example, there are those who believe it will displace groups such as students from areas close to universities and force them into other areas occupied by Housing Association tenants and low income households leading to unnecessary pressure on the housing stock in such areas.
As a landlord or investor, whether you are for it or against it, if you are looking to purchase a property for the purpose of development and you are at all unsure whether or not you will need planning permission under the Article 4 Direction, simply give Leeds City Council a call and they will tell you all you need to know. They also have a very handy guide called Houses in Multiple Occupation and Article 4 Direction Frequently Asked Questions here.