From this year, tougher laws are expected to be imposed around licensing for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), as the government tries to shake up rogue landlords.
The new rules, which many expect to take effect from April this year, could remove the three-storey minimum rule currently in place for large HMOs but keep the threshold of five or more people per household.
Minimum room sizes could also be imposed for any property that has been licensed under a mandatory HMO or additional licensing scheme – a room must be at least 6.52 square metres for one person, and 10.23 square metres for two people, with a minimum ceiling height of 1.5 metres. Other proposals could include rules on storage facilities and waste disposal.
The current government guidelines state that an HMO is “a property rented out by at least 3 people who are not from 1 ‘household’ (eg a family) but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen”.
All ‘large’ HMOs – those that are rented to five or more people who form more than one household, are at least three storeys high and tenants share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen – must currently have a licence. Landlords must apply for a separate licence for each HMO, and stick to a number of conditions set out here.
HMOs with one or two storeys, where there are three or more unrelated occupants, do not currently need a licence, but this may change when the new laws come in. Figures suggest the number of properties that will need a licence under the new regime will rise from around 60,000 to 175,000.
The changes are intended to stop landlords from abusing the system, and to generally improve the standard of lettings in England.
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.”
Landlords who do not abide by the new regulations could end up with rooms they cannot rent out, or even be fined, although there is likely to be a “six-month grace period for landlords to catch up with new legislation”, according to Home Safe Scheme founder Carl Agar.
He added: “Transferring from an unlicensed property to a mandatory one is also likely to be pretty simple. HMOs can still be a very good investment, in the right area, targeting the right audience and managed closely.”