Housing Secretary Michael Gove is set to push through new rules on HMO safety for housing asylum seekers with little fanfare on the same day that the Renters' Reform Bill is published.
The changes outlined in the proposed Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) Regulations would exempt landlords in England and Wales offering asylum accommodation from regulations governing everything from electrical safety to minimum room sizes.
They would no longer have to register with local authorities and could house asylum seekers for two years without getting an HMO licence.
Housing campaigners fear the vote legalises the use of accommodation in the PRS that would otherwise be deemed unfit for habitation.
Mary Atkinson, a campaigns and network manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told the Guardian: 'HMO licences exist to make sure that accommodation meets basic levels of safety and sanitation. However, much asylum accommodation already falls below these standards, with people seeking sanctuary housed in cramped, windowless rooms smaller than prison cells.
'Without HMO licences, already traumatised people will be at risk of living in places that are unfit for human habitation.'�
The move is not without its critics within the PRS, who predict that some accommodation providers are likely to provide lower standard accommodation to the Home Office rather than improving it and making it suitable for renting through the more usual HMO licensing route
The Home Office denies claims that the proposed change in the law would lower housing standards for asylum seekers. A government spokesperson says: 'By temporarily removing this licensing requirement, we will be able to acquire more suitable long-term accommodation while continuing to meet our legal duty of care.'�
Massive backlogs in the asylum processing system have led to more than 50,000 asylum seekers being housed in hotels across the country, at a cost of �6m a day. There are about 6,000 HMOs accommodating 28,000 asylum seekers but the government is concerned that HMO licensing regulation makes it difficult to acquire them.