Crackdown on Rogue Landlords – Again?

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A new minimum bedroom size and the extension of licensing to thousands more properties are to form part of a government crackdown on rogue landlords who cram tenants into overcrowded homes. As rents have risen in recent years some landlords have attempted to maximise profits by squeezing tenants into rabbit-hutch properties. Family homes have been divided into bedsits, with some landlords letting spaces that are just three metres squared, or advertising rooms that are shared with other tenants.

 

There have been rumblings since the original measures of the act came into force in 2007 that the HMO definition needed to be revised to make it all encompassing and not just the three storey, five people, two household rules for mandatory licensing. The strict definition of an HMO has been the point of conjecture amongst both enforcement agents and the landlord fraternity, and in some cases the legal definition has been challenged to the full extent of the law.

Even now, I have to correct, albeit as diplomatically as I can, some beliefs around the definition of an HMO and in some cases, these are people who should know the difference between an HMO and a property that needs a mandatory license. Too often HMO is a term used to describe ‘a licensable property’ and the confusion to a certain extent can be firmly laid at the door of the councils of England and Wales. In some cases I have dealt with on behalf of landlords in the East Midlands, I have needed to re-educate Council Officials on the difference between an HMO requiring a mandatory license, and a property that is an HMO but only requires planning permission to comply.

On top of that, bedroom sizes, have become a sticking point. Again in some cases, it could be argued that the ‘size’ of a bedroom has been used to restrict the occupancy of a property under a license as a way of the council controlling the proliferation of multi-let properties under their jurisdiction. A guideline or directive from central Government does not have to be followed by a local council as it is not a legal requirement,. Hence councils have been allowed to implement their own guidelines on room size. Legislating will remove this ambiguity and create a level playing field for all property owners.

I do, however, have one niggling and recurring thought to all of this; Will additional or refining existing legislation really curb the appetite of the ‘Rogue’ landlord? or, as is the case to date, will it just push up the costs associated with renting a property. whether that be landlord or tenant costs?

Does the Private Rented Sector (PRS) need any more regulation?

What are your thoughts? Have you seen the impact, good or bad, of the current legislative regime on your housing stock?

About the Author Matthew Moody

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4 comments
Jesse Fossey Taylor says October 20, 2016

I think regulation may convince some newbies not to enter the market in the first place. While enforcement would perhaps lead to some rogue landlords being found and penalized, I think you’re right – many rogues are just going to try to fly under the radar, no matter what regulations are in place

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Garreth Wilcock says October 20, 2016

I’ve always thought that a room under 6.52 square meters isn’t particularly competitive in the market I operate in – the East Midlands. Whether or not I’m pursuing a HMO licence, I always go with the council’s guidance on amenities and space, and if that council seems to suggest low standards, I go with the higher standards of a neighboring council.

to Jesse’s point though, I think that there are a section of landlords who fly in the face of guidance, laws and decent standards and if these measures can provide a framework for creating safer HMOs by raising awareness in councils, then I’m all for it.

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Matthew Moody says October 24, 2016

Thank You Jesse. Like you, we see no change in the appetite for knowledge when it comes to HMO investment, and agree that some people see the marketplace as too difficult to enter. In setting standards that are uniform, we see this as an opportunity to get it right. We have always campaigned that there is enough legislation for councils to prosecute, or at least sanction, criminal or non-compliant landlords.

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Matthew Moody says October 24, 2016

Thanks for your thoughts Garreth. Perhaps a uniform approach to room size will make it more manageable? We agree that criminal landlords will not adhere to guidelines anyway, but we are not convinced that more legislation will improve standards overall. We shall wait and see!

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