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EHOs given power to combat cramped living

Stuart Spear26/10/2016 - 15:30

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Two storey houses or above could now be HMOs
Two storey houses or above could now be HMOs

While welcoming new proposed rules covering Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) the CIEH has raised concerns that plans to introduce mandatory licensing for poorly converted flats have been shelved.

Published last week by the Department for Culture Communities and Local Government the second round of consultation on HMO licensing reforms contains many new provisions supported by the CIEH.

In particular the new rules will clarify what has long been a legislative loophole allowing landlords to rent out rooms that are far too small for an adult to comfortably occupy.

Councils have seen a marked increase in unscrupulous landlords subdividing flats and houses into multiple rooms to cram as many tenants into a property as possible. Under the new rules a minimum room size of 6.52 sq. metres for one person and 10.23 sq. m for two will be introduced. A minimum height of 1.5 metres is also being proposed.

Local housing authorities will be able to set their own higher size guidance standards depending on local housing conditions.

Another source of overcrowding is also being addressed by extending mandatory HMO licensing to flats above commercial premises.

These are often used to house staff working in businesses below, particularly in food premises. The new rules will apply to converted buildings or buildings where other parts are used for commercial or non-residential purposes although where there are three or more flats the property will be exempt.

Under existing rules HMO licensing applies to three storey buildings occupied by at least five people in at least two households. The new proposals get rid of the storey requirement but maintain the five-person threshold. The CIEH has expressed disappointment that its proposal to lower the threshold to three was rejected.

‘We broadly welcome these long awaited HMO licensing reforms although we wish the government has included mandatory licensing for poorly converted blocks and had reduced the number of persons required for HMO status down from five,’ said Bob Mayho CIEH principal policy officer.

‘In our original consultation response we reflected the views of our members that poorly converted flats were posing a health risk to tenants and that stricter controls are needed to better protect vulnerable tenants.’

The consultation also proposes a number of new requirements for a landlord to demonstrate they are a ‘fit and proper’ person while also proposing the need for adequate refuse disposal and storage facilities.

The Government is also consulting on how the new HMO mandatory licensing regime might affect accreditation schemes for purpose-built accommodation for students, and whether any changes need to be made.

‘These changes will not require primary legislation so they need to be brought in as soon as possible to give local authorities time to assess how many additional properties they are going to have to license,’ added Mr Mayho.

The DCLG has calculated that on average the new rules will impact 434 additional properties per local authority making a total of 141,284 nationally.

Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell said: ‘These measures will give councils the power they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area. By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules out of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.’

The consultation was published in the same week as the housing charity Shelter published a survey revealing that 43 per cent of homes in Britain fail to meet the Living Homes Standard, a measure created by the public to define what is an acceptable home.

The research also shows that almost one in five or 18 per cent live in homes which fail to meet the standard because of poor conditions such as persistent pests, damp or safety hazards.

The homes of almost one in ten people fail due to the public’s definition of instability, largely driven by renters who feel they don’t have enough control over how long they can live in their home.  

The standard is the result of nine months’ research undertaken by Ipsos Mori.

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