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Review into licensing and guidance on HMO changes

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Today, the Government have announced that they are to conduct a review into licensing schemes, with a view to publishing their findings next year. They have also released guidance on the new HMO rules which will come into effect in October this year.

The Government have said independent commissioners will be consulting with representative bodies for the industry and local authorities on selective licensing schemes. Local authorities operate the schemes in areas where there are widespread problems with private rented sector properties and allows them to ensure that landlords are a ‘fit or proper person’ and make other stipulations concerning management of the property and appropriate safety measures.

Once further details of the review are made public we'll be making our submission which will push hard to explain why we think reliance on licensing schemes to tackle rogues is a bad idea.

The review comes just months after a select committee inquiry into the private rented sector which saw experts from across professional bodies, local government and consumer groups give oral evidence in multiple sessions. ARLA Chief Executive David Cox was called to give evidence and repeatedly gave examples which illustrated that licensing schemes, which are sweeping across the country at a rate of knots, simply don't work. They are costly to reputable landlords and have little impact on the rogue landlords blighting the industry. 

Once again, we encourage members to get in contact with us to let us know their views, so we can ensure that we fully represent our members. Please email with your views. 

The findings of the review are expected to be published in Spring 2019, but no firm date has been given as of yet. 

Guidance on HMOs

Meanwhile, the Government have published guidance aimed at local authorities to help them understand changes for HMO licensing that will come into effect in October this year. 

Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP said: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Today's new guidance for landlords will further protect private renters against bad and overcrowded conditions and poor management practice. Government is also today announcing a review to look at how selective licensing is used and find out how well it is working."  

Changes to HMOs were first proposed back in October 2016 and following a consultation on HMOs and residential property licensing reforms, the Government announced last month that from October this year HMOs will be subject to additional criteria including widening the definition of a HMO, introducing minimum rooms sizes and requirements around refuse and recycling. 

Minimum room sizes in the private rented sector will be dependent on how many people are sleeping in one room and whether those people are adults or children. For example - a room used for sleeping will need to be at least 6.51 square metres for one adult and 10.22 square metres for a room with 2 adults. If the room is slept in by children of 10 years or younger then the room must be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.  

David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark, commented: “Licensing doesn’t work, and it never has done. The Government’s aims are laudable; we’re all striving for the same end goal of improving the private rental sector for consumers, but these policies are impractical. Licensing means councils spend all their time administering schemes, rather than enforcing against rogue, criminal landlords – a fact which has been proven time and time again over the last decade. Implementing standards for minimum bedroom sizes means small, cheap bedrooms will be taken off the market at a time when there’s an acute housing shortage. This will increase costs for other tenants living in the property, and means those who need or want these small, cheap bedrooms will be left without anywhere to live.

“Today’s announcement, coupled with the gradual removal of mortgage interest relief, new energy standards for landlords, and the ever-increasing fees for these schemes, means landlords are being hit from every side. At a time when the Government is concerned with rising rent costs, all its policies are just increasing costs for landlords, fostering a private rented sector where financial burdens due to ever-changing legislation will keep rising.”