New measures are being laid out by the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government before parliament with the objective of improving the overcrowded and dangerous living conditions experienced by some tenants in HMO’s.
Local councils are being given a variety of new powers to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords who rent out overcrowded or dangerous properties, imposing fines of up to £30,000 for non-compliant landlords.
From the 1st October, councils will be able to set their own minimum bedroom size standards and introduce limits, with licenses issued having to abide by the following conditions:
- To ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged over 10 years is not less than 6.51 square metres;
- To ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by two persons aged over 10 years is not less than 10.22 square metres;
- To ensure that the floor area of any room in the HMO used as sleeping accommodation by one person aged under 10 years is not less than 4.64 square metres;
- To ensure that any room in the HMO with a floor area of less than 4.64 square metres is not used as sleeping accommodation.
Commenting on the new measures, Junior Housing Minister Heather Wheeler said:
“Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. But some tenants are being exploited by a minority of unscrupulous landlords who profit from renting out cramped and sometimes squalid or dangerous properties.”
“Today’s measures will mean landlords must provide adequate space for their tenants or face a hefty fine. It is part of a raft of new powers for councils to crack down on rogue landlords and comprehensive action we are taking to improve conditions for private tenants.”
With recent cases of tenants suffering health issues due to accommodation that does not meet relevant size or health & safety standards, local authorities under the proposed legislation would be able to set a deadline of up to 18 months for the situation to be rectified.
Wider Political Action
Alongside the Government’s new proposed measures, the Labour party have also joined in calls for local councils to be given greater powers to tackle rogue landlords. In a recent visit to Walsall Council, John Healey Labour’s shadow housing minister also urged councils to do more when tackling hazardous housing conditions, warning that some tenants lived in conditions so squalid it was likely to leave tenants requiring medical attention.
Recent government figures collected from the English Housing Survey, suggest that up to 2.4 million people live in rented homes with category 1 hazards, with the worst affected areas being the east and west midlands.
Outlining the potential hazards and action that needs to be taken in the area, Healey said: “It is a major problem everywhere, but the West Midlands has a bigger problem than most other places when it comes to private rented homes that are not up to scratch.
“I’m talking about properties with faulty electrical wiring that can cause a fire, condensation or damp, they’ve got vermin infestations. All of these things can be hazardous to health and to life.”
“There are too many tenants who just can’t get their landlords to do what they should. In fact, one in four private rented homes don’t even qualify as being fit for human habitation.”
“Labour is leading legislation that we have now got the Government to back, to give tenants the legal right to take their landlord to court (or issue civil penalty notices) if they don’t make necessary improvements.”
“But in the meantime, people need a council like Walsall to step in and lean on landlords that aren’t doing the job.”
These calls for improvement in the private rental sector could see considerable change to the midlands and other areas, with Gedling Borough Council joining a growing number of councils by consulting on a selective licensing scheme in Netherfield (currently suspended amongst plans for new legislation) aiming to tackle poor housing conditions through tougher measures on landlords, charging £490 per year for accredited landlords and £640 for non-accredited landlords.