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HMOs may be endangering tenants’ health claims YMCA chief

A YMCA chief executive claims the proliferation of HMOs may be endangering private tenants’ health by encouraging overcrowding and undersized-rooms.

Alan Fraser, chief executive of the YMCA Heart of England, writes in The Guardian that there is now an industry growing up advising landlords about the financial gains to be made from Houses in Multiple Occupation - he cites the HMODaddy website as an example.

Fraser says the growth of HMOs is partly down to landlords taking advantage of housing benefit rules, which link the amount of rent that can be claimed principally to the number of bedrooms. 


“As long as the bedrooms are above the minimum habitable size, then it doesn’t actually matter what the overall size a rental unit is. This has incentivised the practice of cutting up houses to increase the number of bedrooms, irrespective of the space available” writes Fraser.

He gives an example of what has happened in Birmingham, where the Local Housing Allowance for a three-bedroom house let to a single household is £674.99 a month. 

“If the landlord lets out the same house to three individuals as a HMO they can claim three lots of the shared accommodation rate – a total of £873.39 a month” explains Fraser. He then goes on to say: “But if they cut the two double bedrooms in half and turn the dining room into another bedroom, they can potentially claim six lots of the shared accommodation rate – £1,746.78 a month. That’s an additional £1,071.79 a month for renting out exactly the same house.”

Fraser then goes on to attack private landlords “using the taxpayer to artificially inflate their investment returns” but he says a solution is at hand.


He suggests housing benefit rules be changed to link the amount of rent that can be claimed to the amount of floor space being let out. 

“In the example above, this would mean that the landlord of a three-bedroom house could claim no additional housing benefit when letting it out as a six-bedroomed HMO” notes Fraser.

Conversely, he says that a landlord who built a large, spacious three-bedroom family home could claim more housing benefit than one who tried to squeeze four bedrooms into a space that can only comfortably accommodate two.

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    As I've said before I've never got involved with HMOs, they are not the sort of tenants I want, however housing benefit for single under 35s is only paid at the single room rate, so without these HMOs where would these people find a roof over their heads, I think the term is '' horses for courses''


    Given the Landlord 'trip-wires' and possession issues on ASTs, more and more landlords are moving towards small HMOs now. Many (small percentage accepted) see this as the future. It is easy to dismiss, but there is a lot of this is fear of the unknown. I know a Landlord who has 6, strictly let to short /mid term transient professionals. It works very well indeed for him, although no doubt the vultures will loom over the next few years!


    If/when the right is removed (as it was in Scotland in December 2017) to agree a mutually acceptable length of tenancy, HMO's may become more prevalent due to the more transient nature of the tenants making it easier for the landlord to regain his own property. This leads to less long term homes being available but then almost every initiative to "protect" tenants ends up having the opposite effect.

    I heard of a local case yesterday where a lady had bought a 2 bedroom ground floor flat with the intention of letting it out for a short period before giving it to her disabled brother and a live in carer when his condition deteriorated sufficiently to need it.

    She has now discovered she cannot compel the tenant to move out unless she needs it for her own principal home or puts it up for sale - so her brother may have to go into public-funded care at greater cost to the tax payer due to the intransigence of the sitting tenant who had informally agreed to a relatively short term tenancy period but cannot be compelled to keep his word.

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    YMCA chief should know better its the Tenants that does the overcrowding every time. The HMO regulations restricts the number of Tenants the LL can have in the property so how can he overcrowd impossible he should get his facts right. HMO isn't any advantage to me and never was just adding huge extra costs. There was no overcrowding before regulations were introduced and very little anti-social behavior either, when the LL was in Charge and not excluded from the property, now they made sure he is powerless and responsible for what he has no control over. I never wanted to be involved with HMO's it was imposed on me there is no choice and can't see why I should have a HMO license as I never let rooms. We are discriminated against half the Community don't need a license if connected to each other in some way and that is often a dozen in one property many on benefit, it would appear their relations occupy many of the Civic Centers making rules to suit their own, maybe The Guardian could investigate.

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  • PossessionFriendUK PossessionFriend

    Perhaps YMCA doesn't like competition.
    Maybe they would like to publish the size and photo's of their hostel rooms for comparison against a HMO ?


    Yes spot on

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    Wow, I am, as the HMO Daddy being quoted in the Guardian. I stopped buying the Guardian an otherwise excellent paper, when the editor said when interviewing me, that they will only publish what their readers want to read which is that private landlords are exploitative! What Alan Fraser the chief executive of the YMCA Heart of England should appreciate is that he gets paid at the least four times as much to house very similar tenants to those I house. Why does not the Guardia not emphasise the vast disparity in such sides given to the social sector? I have housed tenants for £60 per week only to discover the social sector was given £2000 a week to look after the very same person but could not cope with him. Worse I did not even get the £60 a week due to the inefficiency of the housing benefit system. I a. Not complaining I am just envious.

    If the Guardian or Alan Fraser had bothered to check their facts I would have told them that providing small rooms in my area is history. I would not encourage anyone to split a house into tint rooms, I fa t the opposite, why would anyone wish to be a HMO landlord today with pointless housing standards, civil penalties, rent repayment orders, I could go on. What private landlords must provide is what the tenants demand and will pay for. In my area small rooms are hard to let and tenant's do not stay for lo.g if they do tent them. Tenants now want rooms in the region of 15m² and will pay for them. However, I echo Andrew Townsend sentiments where to do those who cannot afford to pay get housed?

    I also question this irrational o session with room size. There is no evidence that small rooms are bad or large rooms are better. It is an irrational perception imposed by those who think they know better what others should have. I do not wish to compare my tenants to prisoners but in this country we imprisoned people in cells as small as 3.5m² for up to 23 hours a day and this is considered humane!

    Jim Haliburton
    The HMO Daddy


    Hey Jim long time no speak. A good and of course qualified response. I only disagree with The Guardian being a good newspaper hope you well mate

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    With the exception of maybe David Wurth I doubt any of us on here would pay any attention to what the likes of the Guardian prints.

    • 10 December 2020 14:14 PM


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    Re article. Don’t think I’ve read such utter nonsense from someone. He really doesn’t have a clue. If his ideas were rolled out. Where are the extra houses/apartments that these people would go to satisfy each tenants sq footage requirement? Also doesn’t he realise that by his suggestions a LL would default to renting to the tenant profile that would pay the max thereby leaving out another tenant profile. Conversely a council would just say we will only pay for a family to live in a small three bedroom house so available larger houses in cheaper areas would be off limits Astounding that this article was actually published

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    Jim, a real HMO specialist of many years that knows and tells how it is.


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