Our Market Masterclass video series focusing on single family rental (SFR) explores the different stages of a successful SFR portfolio.

In the second video in our series, senior associate Emma Cartledge-Taylor speaks about the strategic planning for setting up a successful SFR, including her key recommendations.

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Emma Cartledge-Taylor: So some of the key points to highlight in terms of single family rentals for housebuilders is that single family rental is not a separately defined use class in the planning system. You will not necessarily see it specifically referenced. The only caveat to that is where you have build-to-rent schemes which form part of single family rental units but are not the only component. In planning permissions, you will see reference to C3 or residential use as opposed to specifically single family rentals. In the descriptions of development, in planning conditions or planning obligations again, you will not necessarily see a breakdown referencing single family rentals. The only time you might see a specific reference is where you have got a 100% build-to-rent scheme and the reason that they may reference build-to-rent in the description of development or in the planning obligations is because it impacts on the affordable housing that will be provided as part of that planning permission.

So we can help housebuilders when they are considering single family rentals in a number of ways. Where a housebuilder is acquiring a site that already has a planning permission, we will review the planning permission and the planning obligation, if there is one, to check that nothing within those documents would interfere with a bulk disposal of single family rentals.

Where housebuilders are acquiring a site subject to planning, we will make sure that we are liaising with the housebuilder, the consultants and/or the seller who are progressing the planning application and we will feed into the planning documents any conditions and any planning obligations, again to make sure that nothing within those documents would interfere with the ability for a housebuilder to do a bulk disposal of single family rentals.

Where housebuilders are speculating and looking at sites we will feed into planning strategies, we would look at local planning authorities' policies to check again that nothing would interfere with a use or disposal of single family rentals and/or where the local planning authority has specific requirements in relation to them which need to be built into a deal and/or the planning application; and then finally, if clients are looking to dispose of land and/or single family rentals we would undertake a similar process in terms of reviewing the planning documentation to make sure that nothing prohibits this and there will be no issues as part of the disposal.

I and the team I am part of are well placed with this work because we are a big team of planning solicitors. We have extensive experience in the market and we are negotiating planning obligations across England and Wales with a range of local planning authorities on a daily basis. We also have extensive experience in terms of the largest strategic sites where more bespoke drafting is required.

In addition to acting for housebuilders, we also see the other side of the fence in acting for local planning authorities and funders, and this is really helpful as we have a good understanding of the market, what is reasonable and what can be agreed as part of the planning process and in acquisition and disposal documents.

We are also really integrated in the planning profession and the planning world generally. Aside from my day job, I am part of networks such as Women in Planning and Women in Property and these are really key industry connections and industry knowledge and use.

Some of the recommendations that I have for housebuilders who are interested in this area depend on what part of the stage they are at. Where they are looking to acquire a site that has got existing planning permissions and/or planning obligations it would be good to make sure that they review the planning documentations as early as possible to identify any issues which may arise when they are looking to do a bulk disposal of single family rentals. Again they will need to engage with the seller and all those on the other side of the deal to rectify any of these issues and/or make the deal conditional upon fixing them.

When looking to apply for planning permission which will include single family rentals, the process is very much the same as any other application for residential development. The key is early engagement with the local planning authority, including in pre-application advice. This will help flush out any issues or potential issues or policy requirements that relate to single family rentals or build-to-rent schemes so that you can ensure that this is dealt with and incorporated into the deal and/or any application for planning permission.

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