A new minimum bedroom size and the extension of licensing to thousands more properties are to form part of a government crackdown on rogue landlords who cram tenants into overcrowded homes. Written by Hilary Osborne for http://www.the guardian.com

Crackdown on rogue landlords to include new minimum bedroom size

As rents have risen in recent years some landlords have attempted to maximise profits by squeezing tenants into “rabbit-hutch” properties. Family homes have been divided into bedsits, with some landlords letting spaces that are just three metres squared, or advertising rooms that are shared with other tenants.

The government’s proposals, which apply only to England, include introduction of a minimum bedroom size of 6.52 sq metres (70 sq ft) in shared houses classed as homes in multiple occupation (HMO). The size would be applied for each individual or couple living in the property, so landlords could not squeeze in bunk beds.

The Housing Act 1985 specifies minimum space standards but a tribunal case in April 2015 caused confusion when it ruled that standards could only be guidance. Following that ruling, Oxford city council lost a case against a landlord who wanted to renew a licence to let a house with a bedroom that was just over 5 sq metres.

The government said it wanted to make the standard mandatory as part of a package of measures it said would help councils bring an end to ruthless landlords who exploit tenants and charge them extortionate rents to live in poor conditions.

Other proposals in a consultation paper published on Tuesday include: extending mandatory licensing rules for HMOs to flats above shops and other business premises; requiring landlords to provide decent storage and disposal of rubbish; and tightening up the “fit and proper person” test for landlords.

The rules only apply to HMOs requiring licences, which are shared homes with five or more people from two or more households. The changes would bring about 174,000 more properties into licensing, on top of the existing 60,000.

The government is also seeking views on whether the licensing arrangements for purpose-built student accommodation are appropriate.

The 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.”

David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, said: “We agree that tackling criminal landlords must be a priority. We wait to see the full details, but powers are already available to tackle overcrowding which is about the number of people crammed into a room, not the size of a room.

“What is needed is proper enforcement of existing powers.”

On Monday, the housing charity Shelter published research on a new “living home standard”, drawn up to reflect what people think makes a property a decent place to live. More than one in 10 of those surveyed felt their homes did not have adequate space.

Since becoming housing minister in the summer Barwell has indicated the government could shift its housing focus from homeownership to looking at ways to increase the number of homes to rent.

The plans announced on Tuesday were originally outlined in a discussion paper in 2015.

Source: The Guardian