We knew it was on its way and here it is – the preliminary ‘technical discussion document‘ before a bill to bring in yet more regulation in the PRS in England.
After such a long period of stability, landlords have really been hammered over the past 12 months. And still it keeps coming.
To be fair though most of the measures in this bill are probably justified. What are we looking at?
More mandatory licensing
The paper starts by declaring that government wants to crack down on rogue landlords and make it easier for Local Authorities to raise standards in the smaller HMOs.
This means extending mandatory licensing from three to two story HMOs and even maybe one story HMOs. As the paper points out, this would bring into scope the dreaded ‘beds in sheds’ properties which – being sheds – are invariably one story only.
Then there are poorly converted blocks of flats – should they too be brought into scope too? The paper asks for your views.
The government however, feel that as long leases for flats generally prohibit multiple occupation and nuisance, that should be enough.
Minimum room sizes
The next section proposes a minimum room size for bedrooms. At present, there is no minimum standard and the government are concerned that valuable Local Authority resources are being wasted by legal challenges to decisions relating to small rooms.
It looks as if the minimum is going to be set at 6.5 sq m which is the Local Housing minimum standard from s326 of the Housing Act 1985.
I have just measured that out on the sitting room carpet, and it looks as if it would cut out the minuscule rooms we have seen in ‘shock horror’ articles in the press recently. So a good thing.
Although, as people will no doubt point out – if there is nothing else available, better a shoe box indoors than a park bench outdoors. Particularly in winter.
But that is more a problem of supply and demand and cannot justify permitting landlords to rent out microscopic rabbit hutches with impunity.
Letting to family members
There is currently an exemption to mandatory licensing if the let is to the landlord’s family.
However, it seems that this has been abused (what a surprise!) and resources have been wasted in establishing identities – to see if occupiers really are family members or not.
It is therefore proposed to remove the exemption.
Streamlining the process
The final section relates to streamlining the process for applying for a license and the paper asks respondents to let them know whether they consider all the questions on the forms are really relevant.
There are also proposals to only require a landlord to provide information once if they are making multiple applications.
This will no doubt make it easier for Local Authorities to process the greatly increased number of applications brought in by this legislation, at lower cost.
Although hopefully when the provisions of the Housing and Planning Bill come into force, and Local Authorities are allowed to hang to enforcement fees and fines, things may be a bit easier for them financially.
If you hold strong views on any of this
The Consultation paper is here and you have until 18 December to put in your response.
Photo kindly provided by Sandra Savage-Fisher of QuaLETy