More properties will almost certainly have to be compulsorily licensed from next year.
Changes to the current mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation are set to be brought in next year.
The Government has been consulting on proposals which include removing the current three-storey rule.
Also 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 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 in a three-storey building.
- Requiring landlords of HMOs to provide decent storage and disposal of rubbish.
- Tightening up the ‘fit and proper person’ test for landlords and ensuring that criminal record checks are carried out.
- 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.
There would be a grace period of six months to give landlords time to comply and local authorities time to process licences.
The RLA believes many of the changes are unnecessary and says they will put a huge strain on local authorities. The Association has made its points in its formal response to the Government consultation.
The RLA believes:
- There should be no change to current HMO thresholds.
- Licences should not be extended beyond two-storey buildings.
- There should be a simpler definition of HMOs.
- Licences should be granted by default when councils fail to process applications on time.
- There should be no minimum national room size.
RLA policy director David Smith said: “The consultation documents assume that maintaining the status quo is not an option. If this is the case, the RLA is asking that any changes to existing legislation are kept to an absolute minimum.”
“Local authorities already struggle to enforce the current mandatory licensing requirements, and in the face of further budget savings their ability to police an extension that will bring hundreds of thousands of homes into the regime is questionable.”
David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, also 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.”