Updated legislation that removes the need for an HMO licence when housing asylum seekers could lower standards in the sector, a legal expert warns.
Asylum seeker accommodation will soon be outside the HMO regime in England so that any property used by an Asylum Accommodation Service Contract (AASC) provider for sole or principal occupation by asylum seekers until 30th June 2024 won't need to be licensed for two years.
There are currently about 6,000 HMOs accommodating 28,000 asylum seekers but the government is concerned that HMO licensing regulation makes it difficult to acquire them.
A report explains: 'This temporary exemption is being introduced to remove barriers that may cause a delay or challenge to acquire more sustainable and cost-effective accommodation for asylum seekers particularly given the pressure on estate, and alternative regulation via standards in the AASC.'�
Property lawyer at JMW, David Smith (pictured), says the government wants to make it easier to house asylum seekers in whatever accommodation they can find.
'It will also mean that some accommodation providers are likely to look to contract 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,'� he adds.
Smith tells LandlordZONE that there's a risk some landlords will split their property portfolios, using the worst ones for asylum seekers, while some rent-to-rent operators could leverage arrangements to pick up poor quality properties and fill them with asylum seekers.
He adds: 'Michael Gove wants to improve standards but is then saying it doesn't apply here. It remains to be seen how useful this actually is or whether it is simply a means of reducing standards for asylum seekers to benefit the government.'�