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Shutting the door on working from home?

Do I need planning permission to work from home?

Lockdown is over and it’s business as usual… but not quite. Since the pandemic, the number of people working from home in the UK has dramatically increased. Most businesses have embraced hybrid working, many employees value the flexibility of homeworking and owners of small businesses often work exclusively from home. Self-employment has been steadily rising in the UK and as of March 2022 the number of people who were self-employed made up 13% of total employment in the UK. It’s safe to say, working from home is the new norm.

So, what are the legal implications of working from home?

Firstly, planning permission may be needed. The key test is whether there is a material change of use from use of the home as a dwelling to use of the home for business purposes, or indeed to a mixed use. What is ‘material’ depends on the facts of the individual case.

If the main use of the home is as a dwelling and the use as a business is incidental to the main use, planning permission will generally not be required. However, it is clear from recent case law that even if use for business purposes is a secondary use, planning permission may still be required if it changes the overall character of the dwelling.

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Factors to be considered include:

  • the number of rooms used for business purposes;
  • the number of days and hours the home is used for business purposes;
  • whether the use as a business involves any activities that are unusual in a residential area;
  • whether the use as a business will result in a marked rise in traffic, e.g. due to client visits or deliveries; and
  • whether the use as a business could cause disruption to neighbouring properties, e.g. due to noise or odours.

If the necessary planning permission is not obtained, then the council may consider enforcement action.

Secondly, there is a risk that working from home could be a breach of covenants to use the premises as a ‘single private dwellinghouse’. Research from Manchester Metropolitan University suggests that up to 50% of all residential properties in England and Wales might be subject to such covenants.

Breach of such a covenant could result in costly legal action if steps are not taken to obtain consent, insurance or a declaration.

If you operate a business and work from home and wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact one of our specialist planning lawyers for further advice/information.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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