Debate: Is the recent rule change for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) fair on tenants?

The Houses in Multiple Occupation licensing debate finally reaches England after many years of HMO licensing in Scotland, where safety standards in rented accommodation are generally higher, due to license implementation since 2001.

Here’s what the English renting experts are debating:

Debate: Is the recent rule change for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) fair on tenants?

YES – Dan Wilson Craw is the director at Generation Rent.

Many people can only afford to rent in a shared house. But some landlords exploit their desperation for a place to sleep by cramming dozens of people into houses that were built for families.

This means overcrowded, unsanitary homes with fire and electric hazards. But occupants are often too scared to raise concerns and get things fixed.

Licensing gives councils the ability to take action against bad landlords, and stop this race to the bottom.

Until now, relatively few properties have been covered by licensing schemes, so this expansion of the definition will bring more potentially criminal landlords under the radar.

They will either have to start providing homes fit for habitation or get out of the market. They can’t simply raise rents in response to new costs, because they’re already charging what people are prepared to pay.

It is essential that the government also improves protection from eviction to minimise disruption for tenants, and addresses the underlying shortage by investing in new homes for social rent.

NO – Carrie Kus is a director at the Residential Landlords Association.

Extending licences to more properties gives a false expectation to tenants that they guarantee it is safe and meets all the required standards.

Our own research at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has found that there is no clear correlation between licences and levels of enforcement action.

There are already substantial powers to regulate the sector, but without proper funding to kick-start greater levels of activity to find and root out criminal landlords who will never willingly come forward to be licensed, then things will not change. Bad landlords will not come forward to be licensed, and without a substantial increase in effective enforcement, licensing more properties will not affect the big changes that are needed.

We agree too with the MPs on the cross-party Housing Committee, who argued that much greater political leadership is needed in order to clamp down on the crooks who are undercutting the good landlords.

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