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Government to revamp licensing for shared houses

19 November 2015

Government to revamp licensing for shared housesProperty investors letting shared houses face a major shake-up of the licensing system in a bid to root out rogue landlords.

In a follow up to Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent pledge to get rid of landlords who ignore health and safety laws to exploit tenants in houses in multiple occupation (HMO), the Department of Communities and Local Government has released a discussion document suggesting a major overhaul of the sector.

Recently, when speaking about immigration, Cameron said: “The government intends to crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime.”

The proposals – which only cover HMOs in England – include:

• Scraping the three-storey rule for mandatory licensing and extending the rule to cover all two storey homes where five or more people live

• Considering bringing all homes with five or more tenants above or below business premises into the scope of licensing

• Considering whether buildings converted into self-contained flats that fail building regulations should have to take out a mandatory licence

• Setting standard minimum room sizes of at least 6.5 square metres for single rooms and 10.2 square metres for double rooms

• Removing an exemption for homes let to relatives from selective licensing rules

The document has two purposes – besides tightening up regulation for bad landlords, the proposals also tidy up HMO rules to ensure all councils apply the same measures consistently across the country.

For example, Manchester City Council recently lost a court case when trying to apply local arbitrary minimum room sizes to an HMO. The court found that local authority standards were for guidance and not binding on landlords.

The paper gives several case studies of landlords who have crammed too many tenants into overcrowded HMOs or ignored fire and safety rules.

“The government is committed to cracking down on rogue landlords like those in the case studies. None of the properties outlined were subject to mandatory licensing and all were occupied by more than five people,” says the report.

“The geographical spread of these examples shows that mismanagement of HMOs isn’t confined to big cities and nor are problems confined to traditional HMOs.

“We want to make it easier for local authorities to raise standards in smaller HMOs where there is a need for improvement and identify the rogues who currently operate below the radar, letting out substandard and sometimes dangerous accommodation, whilst housing vulnerable people and sometimes illegal immigrants.”

The full document is available here

The consultation is open until December 18, 2015.