A recent article on the BBC news site, complains that landlords are avoiding the HMO licensing regulations by developing HMOs in buildings which do not come within the categories which require licensing, which in most cases requires a building to have three or more stories. Hence, the article implies, landlords are able to get away with shocking standards with impunity.
Well yes, but thats not wholly because of the HMO legislation. There is already power available to Local Authorities to deal with substandard properties. Under part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, Local Authorities can carry out inspections on properties under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and serve improvement notices on the landlord requiring him to bring the property up to standard. If the landlord fails to do this, the Local Authority can prosecute, and also has the power to get the repair works done itself (and recoup the cost from the landlord).
Any one can contact the Local Authority if they are concerned about the standard of a property, it does not have to be the tenant. Local Authorities have a general duty to “keep the housing conditions in their area under review with a view to identifying any action that may need to be taken by them” (s3(1)).
Then there are the HMO management regulations. These require all HMOs to be managed properly and comply with basic standards. Landlords not complying with these, can also be prosecuted.
So although extending the licensing requirements might help, Local Authorities already have powers to deal with shoddy properties in their area, whether they are HMOs or not. The problem, so far as I can see, is not lack of power to do these things, but lack of funding and manpower. Presumably, as Mr Brown has mortgaged the country in order to pay the banks, this is not a situation which is likely to improve in the near future. What do you think?