Minimum rooms sizes have been proposed by the Government to tackle overcrowded homes and drive out rogue landlords in England. Also included is an extension of mandatory licensing parameters, a tougher ‘fit and proper person’ test and storage requirements.
The proposals form part of the Government’s consultation paper Houses in Multiple Occupation and residential property licensing reforms.
Probably the most contentious section of the proposals is the one relating to minimum room sizes in houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
The regulations will amend schedule 4 of the Housing Act 2004 by inserting a new compulsory condition that in order for a room to be deemed suitable for sleeping in it must meet minimum size requirements.
The prescribed sizes are 6.52 sq. m for one person and 10.23 sq. m for two persons.
If a room let for sleeping doesn’t meet the minimum standard the licensor would be in breach of the licence and commit an offence and be liable on conviction to an unlimited fine or a financial penalty of up to £30,000.
The condition would not be breached by temporary arrangements, such as visitors sleeping overnight on an occasional basis, who are not to be treated as occupying the room.
The condition would also not apply to temporary emergency accommodation, such as night shelters, or hostels that provide dormitory type accommodation or those who who do not charge or take other consideration for providing accommodation.
David Cox, ARLA’s MD commented on the announcement:
“Landlord licensing doesn’t work. Councils already have a wide variety of powers to prosecute for poor property conditions and bad management practices; with penalties ranging from fines to seizure of property and even imprisonment. But Councils don’t have the resources to undertake effective enforcement action.
“Imposing more burdens on councils will not mean improved standards and better conditions for tenants; it will merely mean more laws that are not being enforced. Further, we have to consider the unintended consequences of minimum room sizes. Some people are happy to take small rooms to keep their costs down. If these rooms are no longer available, where are people supposed to live?
What’s more, if a small room in a property can no longer be let out, the costs of that room will be spread across the other tenants living in the property; pushing up their rents. A habitable room is essential but a one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t always work.”
OTHER MEASURES ANNOUNCED AS PART OF THE PROPOSAL INCLUDE:
Extending the scope of mandatory HMO licensing
The government wants to extend mandatory licensing to all shared homes with five or more people from two or more households, and to flats above and below shops and other business premises.
Currently licensing only applies for homes with three or more floors and excludes homes attached to businesses, unless they are in a three-storey buildings.
The impact assessment annex to the consultation looks in detail at the estimated costs to landlords as businesses in extending mandatory HMO licensing.
Fit and proper test
Proposal look to introducing regulations that would require a criminal record certificate to be obtained for an applicant for a licence and any manager of the property.
Refuse disposal facilities
Licence holder provides adequate provision for household waste suitable for the number of people occupying the property under the license. It likely that this provision would apply only to licences granted after implementation.
Purpose built student housing
The Government will consider whether to approve a code of practice under section 233 which relates to purpose built blocks of flats exclusively providing accommodation for students.
Consideration is also given as to whether private providers who comply with such a code should be entitled to a discount on the standard rate for a licence application.
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