Rogue landlords are being put on notice as government announces tough new powers to crack down on bad practices, stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting in the private rented sector (PRS).
New Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced 28 December 2017 to bring smaller HMOs under the mandatory licensing umbrella.
Sharma has now set out how, subject to parliamentary clearance, landlords renting properties in England occupied by 5 or more people, from 2 or more separate households will need to be licensed.
The move will affect around 160,000 houses, bringing them into the mandatory licensing scheme for the first time, but it will mean that councils can more easily take action to crack down on unscrupulous landlords renting sub-standard and overcrowded homes.
Government has also set out details of criminal offences which will automatically ban someone from being a landlord. From April next year, someone convicted of offences such as burglary and stalking can be added to the database of rogue landlords and be barred from renting properties.
These latest measures build on government action to date to drive up safety and standards in the private rented sector. This includes bringing in fines of up to £30,000 for dodgy landlords, protections for tenants from revenge evictions and £12 million funding for councils to take enforcement action in hotspot areas.
The 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.
“Enough is enough and so I’m putting these rogue landlords on notice – shape up or ship out of the rental business.
“Through a raft of new powers we are giving councils the further tools they need to crack down these rogue landlords and kick them out of the business for good.
“The move will also benefit wider communities fed up with living near shoddily maintained properties without proper bins, dumped rubbish and anti-social behaviour. Landlords will be held responsible for making sure the council’s rules on refuse and recycling are followed.
“New rules will also come into force setting minimum size requirements for bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation to prevent overcrowding. As part of the licencing requirements, local councils will be able to make sure only rooms meeting the standard are used for sleeping.”
How and why the new rules apply:
The new measures were subject to consultation with the majority of responses supporting the new proposals.
The DCLG says there are around 4.3 million households in the private rented sector in England, with around 500,000 houses in multiple occupation.
The new licensing rules only apply to certain houses in multiple occupation in England.
National mandatory licensing currently only applies if properties are 3 or more storeys. This is being changed so flats and one/two-storey properties will be brought within scope.
Minimum space requirements
Rooms used for sleeping by 1 adult will have to be no smaller than 6.51 square metres, and those slept in by 2 adults will have to be no smaller than 10.22 square metres. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.
The licence must specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room and the total number across the different rooms must be the same as the number of persons for whom the property is suitable to live in.
Banning orders and landlord database:
A small number of rogue or criminal landlords knowingly rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 introduced a range of measures to tackle rogue landlords:
- civil penalties of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution – came into force April 2017
- extension of Rent Repayment Orders to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with a statutory notice – came into force April 2017
- banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders – to be implemented in April 2018
- a database of rogue landlords/letting agents convicted of certain offences – to be implemented in April 2018
Duties and Obligations:
These changes when they are implements will have major implications for landlords / managers of any multi-occupied property, shared houses of any kind will be brought under the strict Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.
Management duties mean that landlord / manager (responsible person) must among other things:
- provide information to occupiers
- take safety measures
- maintain water supply and drainage
- supply and maintain gas and electricity (These should not be unreasonably interrupted.)
- maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
- maintain living accommodation
- provide waste disposal facilities
- inform the local council about occupancy of the HMO
The management of houses in multiple occupation (England) Regulations 2006 place duties on the occupiers of HMOs to:
- take reasonable care to avoid causing damage and disrepair
- co-operate in a reasonable way with the manager and provide information to allow the manager to carry out his/her duties
- comply with any reasonable arrangement made by the manager regarding means of escape from fire, refuse storage and disposal
- allow the manager access to their rooms at all reasonable times to carry out their duties
The regulations require that the specified standards of management are achieved and maintained within houses in multiple occupation. Failure to meet these standards may result in a manager or owner of a house in multiple occupation being prosecuted. The maximum fine for breach of each Regulation is £5000.
You can access a copy of The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 here