Housing minister Brandon Lewis has announced new measures that will clamp down on “criminal” landlords who “trap and cram vulnerable tenants in unsafe, overcrowded homes”.
The proposals intend extending HMO licensing to one/two storey properties, instead of just three storey properties at present, and setting a minimum size of rooms that can be let as a bedroom. The plans also include ensuring rules apply to poorly converted blocks of flats and flats above and below shops, which are often exempt.
Lewis said: “It is simply unacceptable that people are living in cramped, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords who are more interested in a quick profit than the safety or welfare of their tenants.
“The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working, benefit fraud, and illegal immigration by creating a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as communities.
“The government is determined to crack down on rogue landlords and these measures, alongside those in the Housing Bill, will further strengthen councils’ powers to tackle poor-quality privately rented homes in their area.”
The announcement for more robust licensing complements wider government efforts to crack down on rogue landlords set out in the Housing Bill.
Ian Fletcher, director of policy (real estate) at the British Property Federation, said: “We understand that the Government is trying to crack down on rogue landlords who are unlawfully filling HMOs with illegal immigrants living in poor conditions, but there is huge scope for unintended consequences if the Government does not get this redefinition right. The current system allows local councils to target other forms of HMOs through discretionary schemes and the definition of a mandatory HMO was carefully crafted in 2004 to be proportional.
“Widening scope as set out will not only capture many new-build student halls, but the extension to some flat-conversions will have implications for owners of some leasehold property, their property managers, and value of their homes.”