Rogue landlords letting overcrowded properties are facing fresh pressure from Westminster.
Spurred on by landlords letting illegally and unethically, as well as confusion over the law, the government is mooting a ‘minimum bedroom size’ to stop the rogues in their tracks.
Under the new proposals bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation would have to be a minimum of 6.5 sq m (70 sq ft) and any landlords letting rooms smaller than that could face criminal charges.
5.8 square metres above the law
Already the 1985 Housing Act specifies minimum space standards, however, the outcome of a recent tribunal suggested the law might need a refresh.
The defendant in the case – a Manchester landlord – was taken to court for renting a bed deck above a box-room. The room measured a measly 5.8 sq m and Manchester city council argued it breached minimum space standards, but the Lands Chamber disputed this and ruled in favour of the landlord.
Keen to prevent similar outcomes the housing minister has now entered the fray, proposals put forward in a new discussion paper encouraging a new national minimum bedroom size. Set at 6.5 sq m this could be increased by local authorities should they so wish.
Speaking on the proposals, Brandon Lewis, the housing minister, said: “It is simply unacceptable that people are living in cramped, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords who are more interested in a quick profit than the safety or welfare of their tenants.
“The government is determined to crack down on rogue landlords … The proposals intend to make it easier for local authorities to raise standards in houses used as shared homes by setting a minimum size of rooms in line with existing overcrowding standards.”
It’s all good with ARLA
Despite recent headlines highlighting the rogues it should be noted that they’re the minority, and as such reactions to the proposals have been largely positive in the buy-to-let community.
Speaking on the move, David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, said: “The consultation is a step in the right direction. There are a minority of rogue agents and landlords bringing the sector into disrepute, and anything that can be done to try and eliminate these is a good thing.
“We must focus our scarce resources on removing the rogue and criminal landlords and agents and this can only be done through enforcement, not administration.”
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