A Certificate of Lawful Use (also known as a Certificate of Lawfulness or Lawful Development Certificate) is a legal document issued by a local planning authority (LPA). It certifies that a particular use of a building, a specific activity, or an existing development is lawful and complies with planning laws and regulations.
A Certificate of Lawful Use serves two main purposes:
It provides legal confirmation that a specific use, development, or activity does not require planning permission, either because it falls under permitted development rights or because it predates the current planning regulations.
It protects the property owner or occupier from enforcement action by the LPA, as it establishes that the use, development, or activity in question is lawful and does not breach planning control.
What are the different types of certificate?
Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD): This certificate is granted for an existing use, activity, or development that has been in place for a certain period without planning permission, but which has become lawful due to the passage of time. In the UK, for example, the relevant time frames are 4 years for a breach of planning control related to building works and 10 years for a change of use or breach of a planning condition.
Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development (CLOPUD): This certificate is granted for a proposed use, activity, or development that the applicant believes falls within permitted development rights or does not require planning permission. Obtaining a CLOPUD provides reassurance to the property owner that the LPA will not take enforcement action against the proposed use, activity, or development.
When might I need to apply for a CLEUD or CLOPUD?
Conversion of a single dwelling into multiple units: If a landlord has converted a single-family home into multiple flats or apartments without obtaining planning permission, they may need to apply for a CLEUD to establish that the current use is lawful due to the passage of time.
Change of use without planning permission: If a landlord has changed the use of a property without obtaining planning permission, such as converting a commercial property into residential units, they might need to apply for a CLEUD to prove that the change of use is now lawful.
Planning to make alterations to a property: If a landlord plans to make changes to a property, such as building an extension or adding a conservatory, and believes the proposed development falls within permitted development rights, they can apply for a CLOPUD to confirm that the planned changes do not require planning permission.
Breach of planning conditions: If a landlord has breached planning conditions attached to a previous planning permission, such as not complying with restrictions on the property’s use or occupancy, they might need to apply for a CLEUD to establish that the breach is now lawful due to the passage of time.
Use of an outbuilding for residential purposes: If a landlord has converted an outbuilding (e.g., a garage, shed, or barn) into a residential dwelling without obtaining planning permission, they may need to apply for a CLEUD to confirm the current use is lawful.
Planning to change the use of a property: If a landlord wants to change the use of a property, such as converting a residential property into a commercial one, and believes the change falls within permitted development rights or does not require planning permission, they can apply for a CLOPUD to confirm the proposed change is lawful.
What is required in an Article 4 area?
It is also increasingly important that landlords with properties inside Article 4 areas are able to prove that they have the correct use class for their property.
- Local authorities are increasingly requiring proof of C4 status as part of the HMO application process. Birmingham City Council specifically are making this request.
- Re-financing: When you come to renew any lending against your investment properties, most lenders will require proof of C4 status.
- Selling: Just as your lenders might require proof of status when refinancing, if you’re selling to someone who is buying with lending, they too will demand to see evidence of the status of the property.
Previously, the required evidence could be as simple as tenancies agreements going back to the start of the Article 4 Direction, now however, a Certificate of Lawful Use or a Certificate of Lawful Development is required.
Do I need one?
f you let your property as a house of multiple occupation (HMO), and it is within an Article 4 designation area, you will most likely be required to provide a COLU in the following circumstances:
- If you wish to sell your property
- When you refinance your property
- When you apply for or re-new an HMO licence.
How do I apply for a Certificate of Lawful Use?
Applications should be made through the planning process for your local authority. You will need to provide varying degrees of evidence depending on the local authority.
You will be required to prove the continuous use of your property as an HMO since the implementation of the specific Article 4 Direction, or four years, depending on the local authority.
What evidence is required
Evidence required may include, floor plans/site plans, signed tenancy agreements, bank statements proving rental payments, sworn statements by you and your agent, and freedom of information requests regarding council tax. Depending on the local authority, you may also be required to erect a notice outside the property as part of the process.
If you don’t think you have everything, don’t worry, give us a call and we’ll see how can help.
How long will it take?
Once the application is received by the local authority, they are required to respond within three months, however, at the time of writing (April 2023), we are seeing very slow response from LPAs.
How much does it cost?
The charge for each local authority is slightly different, but normally around £400-£600.
How do I apply for a Certificate of Lawful Use (C4 use)?
Our expert team can help you to understand if you need a certificate, and complete the application on your behalf. They know the process inside and out so are best placed to make sure your application is successful.
If you think you are missing any evidence, there are various things we can do, so please get in touch to see how we can help.
For a straightforward application, our fees are £595 per application including VAT.
The service includes:
– Collating tenancy agreements and tenant details from the start of the Article 4
– Obtaining additional supporting evidence
– Preparing statutory declarations
– Arranging the required site plans
– Completing the online application
– Processing payments
– Dealing with any follow up queries with the local authority
– Making freedom of information application requests if required, an additional charge will apply
– If the local authority requires a notice to be erected, an additional charge will apply
We can provide this service for properties across England and Wales.
If you’d like us to help, please purchase the service using the links below, complete the form at the top of this page, or call us on 0333 003 2211.