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Minimum room size plans ‘fundamentally flawed’ says RLA

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

The Government’s impact assessment into plans to introduce minimum room sizes are ‘fundamentally flawed’, with the RLA warning that unless the shortcomings are addressed the regulations are open to challenge by judicial review.

As of October this year, a national minimum bedroom size will be introduced for all licensed HMOs, in a bit to tackle overcrowding, with councils required to stipulate how many people can sleep in each room.

Peers yesterday approved the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018.

However, the RLA believes decisions have been made based on inaccurate information – and that little consideration has been given to the negative impact the changes will have on tenants, landlords and the sector as a whole.

The letter to the Government, which can be read here, says the the impact assessment contains and inaccurate statement; that rooms under 6.5sqm (70sqft) are unlawful.

According to the RLA, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) continues to misunderstand the space standard in the Housing Act 1985.

This is because these standards in no way specify a minimum room size, as they deal with ‘notional occupiers’.

In short the standard takes a home and – dismissing bathrooms and kitchens – gives each room a score dependent on the size.

Under the standard a 70-90 sqft room is equal to one person, with 50-70sqft equal to a ‘half person’.

However, the house might also include a sitting room that is equivalent to two people. This means that a room of less than 6.5sqm (70sqft)  can be offset under this test by other rooms which are larger.

Hence it is a whole house assessment and NOT a room assessment.

It is, therefore misleading for the Government to suggest it is implementing existing rules.

The letter goes on to state that the MHCLG also misunderstands the outcomes of two tribunal cases, Clark v Manchester City Council and Crompton v Oxford City Council.

The letter says: “Neither Clark or Crompton are cases which suggest that a council is any way obliged to routinely accept rooms of less than 6.5sqm, or indeed of any specific size.

“They are both cases which make clear that council’s must use their discretion to assess properties in aholistic manner rather than a narrow focus on one issue.”

The RLA also makes the points that the  impact assessment does not cost the implementation of the room size policy, nor take into consideration the consequences for tenants currently renting such rooms.

The new room sizes have been introduced to try to tackle issues of overcrowding in the sector. Check out our guide for more information on this.

The RLA runs a Principles of HMOs course, which has dates throughout the country.

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

With a degree in Journalism, she is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and creating social media content.

Before joining the RLA, Victoria worked in the University of Salford’s press office, and during University she represented Smooth Radio at events across the North West, as a member of the street team.

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