The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) yesterday published a new set of guidelines for landlords on the legislative changes for HMOs and also for selective licensing.
The guidance document includes details about the new legislation extending mandatory licensing to smaller HMOs and introducing minimum bedroom sizes, as the Government continues its drive to improve standards in the PRS and to “rebalance” the relationship between landlords and tenants.
Last month’s legislative changes are designed to protect tenants’ living conditions by specifying minimum room sizes for HMOs. Landlords letting properties to five or more people from two or more separate households must all now be licensed by their local housing authority. The three story rule no longer applies, so HMOs meeting the above criteria will be licensable for one, two, three or more stories.
The government estimates that this change will bring around 160,000 houses into the licensable houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) catchment. It will mean more work for local authorities to administer these schemes, but it will put them into a better potion to crack down on the small minority of landlords who abuse the system – renting dangerous, sub-standard and overcrowded homes.
The new legislation also covers refuse disposal schemes, so landlords are made responsible to the council for managing and reducing problems with rubbish around their rental properties.
Speaking about these new guidelines, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said:
“Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live.
“Today’s new guidance for landlords will further protect private renters against bad and overcrowded conditions and poor management practice”.
A review of the selective licensing scheme
The new guidelines published yesterday include an announcement that the government is to review how selective licensing schemes are working up and down the country, and how the scheme is being applied by councils.
In those areas where selective licensing has been implemented, landlords must apply for a licence to rent out a property. In doing this, councils can decide whether or not a landlord applicant is a ‘fit and proper person’ using various laid down criteria.
The National Landlords’ Association (NLA) says it is objecting to a blanket approach taken by some selective licensing schemes, and has suggested that a street by street, area by area, approach should be used in the first instance to target the worst areas, which also, it argues, helps with proper enforcement.
The licence fees, the NLA says, are an issue, as landlords may need to pass these costs onto their tenants. This, says the NLA, will place a greater burden on the most vulnerable people in the private rented sector (PRS), often the low paid and socially supported tenants.
NLA Local Policy Officer Gavin Dick argues:
“If selective licensing schemes are used appropriately and in a targeted fashion, they can be an effective tool for councils to improve housing standards. However, they need to be implemented properly, fully resourced and enforced.
“We believe a far more effective means of improving standards in the PRS is through better co-operation between councils and landlords, which can be bolstered through accreditation.”
The selective licensing review is to be carried out by independent commissioners gathering evidence from local authorities and bodies representing landlords, tenants and housing professionals.
The review’s findings are to be published in spring of 2019, with an update on progress this coming autumn.
[Image: Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP]
The full guidelines MHCLG guidelines here