On Friday 6th November, the government published a consultation paper seeking to make changes to the regulatory laws surrounding HMO licensing.
Currently, mandatory HMO licensing is restricted to properties that are over three storeys high which contain over five people in two or more separate households with shared facilities such as a kitchen, bathroom, or toilet.
The government are considering changing these existing criteria to include a wider range of properties. The new ‘red tape’ aims to amend the three-storey minimum for licensing and change it to either a two-storey minimum, or perhaps even extending HMO licensing to all multi-household residencies which contain over five tenants. This is a result of the growing trend of exploitation of migrants via overcrowded and sub-standard accommodation.
HMO licensing is not the only change that the government are currently considering. There is also the possibility of an implementation of a new national minimum room size requirement along the lines of the statutory overcrowding standard in section 326 of the Housing Act 1985. This outlies that the minimum for a single room is 6.5sqm and for a double room is 10.2sqm. Councils may also be allowed some autonomy to define a minimum above these limits if requested, possibly creating regional discrepancies in minimum HMO room sizes across the UK. HMOs also have to be up to a certain quality according to inspection, although exceptions are allowed if let to family members.
‘Beds in sheds’ are the next target for the government in its crackdown on sub-standard residencies of rogue landlords
‘Beds in sheds’ are also the new target, as the government seeks to crackdown on rogue landlords who exploit migrants by letting out substandard properties in unsafe living communities. Only recently, two landlords in West London were fined £36,000 for letting out multiple sub-standard residencies, which were said to be potential ‘death traps’ due to the filthy conditions and negligent fire safety. Councils now have an additional £5m from the government to target these offenders and possibly prosecute them if necessary. As many as 3,000 landlords are now facing further enforcement action from the government. Punishments can range from outright banning orders to serious and prolific offenders to smaller penalties of £5,000.
Landlords should always make sure that tenancies are up to a good standard and all licenses are in date. The government seems to be raising regulation to a higher standard to stop the increasing numbers of rogue landlords making large sums using exploitative methods from sub-standard HMO accomodation.
Currently, all changes to HMO licensing are believed to be implemented by the government in 2016.
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