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Tighter licensing requirements for HMOs won’t improve standards for tenants

The government’s plan to tighten licensing requirements for landlords of shared accommodation in an effort to clamp down on rogue landlords is doomed for failure, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).

In a consultation published yesterday, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) proposed to apply licensing rules to all shared homes in England with five or more people from two or more households and to flats attached to business premises.

The new rules, which are set to be introduced next year, will ensure that “everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live”, according to housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell.

He added: “These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area.

“By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules out of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.”

Landlords who fail to obtain a licence can be criminally prosecuted and face a potentially hefty fine.

However, David Cox, managing director of ARLA, insisted yesterday that “landlord licensing doesn’t work”.

He commented: “Councils already have a wide variety of powers to prosecute for poor property conditions and bad management practices; with penalties ranging from fines to seizure of property and even imprisonment. But Councils don’t have the resources to undertake effective enforcement action. Imposing more burdens on councils will not mean improved standards and better conditions for tenants; it will merely mean more laws that are not being enforced.”

The housing minister has also announced that minimum room sizes will apply to shared homes, and Cox fears that this will have “unintended consequences”.

He continued: “Some people are happy to take small rooms to keep their costs down. If these rooms are no longer available, where are people supposed to live?

“What’s more, if a small room in a property can no longer be let out, the costs of that room will be spread across the other tenants living in the property; pushing up their rents. A habitable room is essential but a one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t always work.” 

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