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House conversion to flats, 4 year rule & continuous use

Discussion in 'Building Regulations and Planning Permission' started by littleorchard, 26 Nov 2018.

  1. littleorchard


    26 Nov 2018
    Thanks Received:
    United Kingdom
    I have some experience of the planning system and have obtained lawful development certificates in the past to confirm the lawfulness of the planning status of a building. However, I currently have a situation I have not seen before with regards to the 4 year rule and the concept of "continuous use" so thought I would reach out here and see if anyone has any experience of it as I have seen some good advice on threads on this site over the last few years.

    Background - we have a residential building that was converted from one large residential house into 6 residential flats around 8 years ago. We have good evidence of the existence of these 6 flats going back at least 8 years e.g. tenancy agreements, council tax bills and utility bills for each flat. We are therefore interested in confirming the legal planning status of these flats with a lawful development certificate using the "4 year rule". However, there are periods during the last 2 years when one of the more of the flats were either:
    1. vacant (for up to 9 months in one case); or
    2. let on a short term basis with Airbnb (for up to 6 months).

    Therefore all 6 flats do have periods of 4 years where we can demonstrate they were in continuous use and occupied as a residential flat, however, it is not necessarily the most recent 4 years eg for one flat we can demonstrate continuous use from 2012 to 2016, but not from 2016 to the present when it has had periods when it is empty.

    So my question therefore is - if we can demonstrate that the flats have existed for at least 8 years, and we can evidence they were continuously occupied by tenants between 2012 and 2016, do the void periods since 2016 matter in terms of obtaining the lawful development certificate under the 4 year rule (given that after 4 years of continuous use the rules (as we understand them) say that a residential property that has been split into flats should be immune from prosecution)? Please note that nothing changed about the flats during their void periods / periods on Airbnb, they were were still individual self contained flats (as they remain today), they were simply empty.

    Please note that my query is not about whether this kind of development falls under the 4 year vs the 10 year rule, I am very comfortable that it falls under the 4 year rule (and have had it confirmed by planning authorities on previous applications).

    Thank you for any input.
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