The Government is planning to extend mandatory licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation, removing the current three-storey rule.
Among its proposals, which apply in England only, is a minimum room size of 6.52 sq metres for one person and 10.23 sq metres for two people.
The floor measurement would be “usable” and exclude any parts of the room where the ceiling height is under 1.5 metres.
Other intended measures are:
- Ensuring mandatory licensing rules apply 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 kicks in for homes with three or more floors and excludes homes attached to businesses, unless they are in a three-storey building.
- Requiring landlords of shared homes to provide decent storage and disposal of rubbish.
- Tightening up the ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords and ensuring criminal record checks are carried out to weed out rogues.
Where a landlord fails to obtain a licence they will be liable to pay a potentially unlimited fine.
Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell said: “In order to build a country that truly works for everyone we must ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live.
“These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area.
“By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.”
It is estimated that the new measures would bring a further 174,000 HMOs into the scope of mandatory licensing by as early as next year.
There would be a grace period of six months to give landlords time to comply and local authorities time to process licences.
As well as launching a new consultation on its proposals, the Government has also published its response to an earlier consultation on extending mandatory licensing of HMOs.
David Cox, managing director of ARLA, immediately hit out at the new proposals.
He said: “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.”
The new consultation is here:
The Government’s response to last year’s consultation, to which it received 449 responses, is here