Following consultation, the Department for Communities and Local Government has announced new measures designed to give councils more powers to deal with dodgy private sector landlords.
Government figures estimate there are around 4.3 million households live in the private rented sector in England, and 500,000 Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO).
Up to now, HMO licensing rules have applied only to properties which are three storeys or higher. Subject to parliamentary clearance, the HMO rules in England will be extended to include flats and buildings that are one or two storeys high and properties rented to five or more people from two or more households. The landlord is included as one household if they live in the property and let rooms to others.
The licence provides local councils additional means to take further action against landlords who rent out sub-standard or overcrowded homes.
To further protect tenants, a new database of landlords and letting agents subject to a banning order from renting out property will include those convicted of offences including burglary and stalking. Since April 2017, under the Housing and Planning Act 2016, councils have been able to fine landlords up to £30,000 in civil penalties as an alternative to prosecution, which covers illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice.
An extension to the Rent Repayment Orders will provide further protection for tenants against ‘revenge evictions’ and a £12 million fund will be available for councils to take enforcement action in the worst areas.
Housing and Planning Minister, Alok Sharma, said: “Every tenant has a right to a safe, secure and decent home. But far too many are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords who profit from providing overcrowded, squalid and sometimes dangerous homes.”
He said the move would: “Benefit wider communities fed up with living near shoddily maintained properties without proper bins, dumped rubbish and anti social behaviour.”
Properties will be subject to a minimum space requirement, and a minimum room size for bedrooms should ensure that HMOs are not overcrowded. A room suitable for one single adult to sleep in will be at least 6.51 sq metres and for two adults must be 10.22 sq metres. A room suitable for children aged ten or younger must be at least 4.64 sq metres.
The Licence will specify the maximum number of people able to occupy a room.
Landlords will be held responsible for ensuring council rules are followed regarding recycling and refuse handling.