As a landlord, it may feel like new rules and regulations are forever coming into play. 

As a landlord, it may feel like new rules and regulations are forever coming into play.

In recent years, we've seen the introduction of Minimum Energy Efficient Standards (MEES), the Tenants Fees act and updates to stamp duty, the Wear and Tear Allowance and mortgage interest tax relief, amongst others.

Another important legislation that agents need to be fully up to speed with – and fully prepared for – is the new minimum space and storage requirements which came into force in October 2018.

What was introduced?

In March 2018, the government laid out new measures to ward against overcrowded and dangerous living conditions of private tenants in shared homes, with councils able to set minimum bedroom size standards from October.

In addition, councils have the power to impose limits on how many people can reside in each bedroom of a licenced multiple occupancy home (HMO).

Similarly to the new energy regulations, national minimum standards have been introduced, and councils can use this to limit the chances of overcrowding. In some cases, they will be able to apply even tougher requirements to solve specific local needs – such as an area with a high concentration of overcrowded, substandard or dangerous living accommodation.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which will be responsible for implementing the new rules, says the new measures help to ensure that tenants ‘have the space they need and deserve’, while also reducing any health and safety risks they might face as a consequence of sharing cooking and washing facilities with too many others.

A bedding-in period

While the new standards automatically applied to all landlords seeking new licences, existing HMO landlords were given a grace period of up to 18 months to make ‘necessary changes when re-applying for a licence when it expires’.

There are also measures to prevent rubbish and waste piling up outside shared rented homes, reducing the chances of complaints and accusations of anti-social behaviour. Landlords will need to provide ‘adequate’ waste storage facilities in line with their local authority’s regulations, with failure to do so leading to a possible fine.

Who is affected?

More landlords are now required to obtain an HMO licence – legislation which is thought to affect an additional 160,000 properties in England – therefore:

  • All landlords of one and two-storey HMOs are affected by the new criteria;
  • Including any property which is occupied by five or more unrelated people;
  • Or any property where two or more families share facilities.

The government said in a statement: “The licence must specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room, and the total number across the different rooms must be the same as the number of persons for whom the property is suitable to live in.”

It added: “National mandatory licensing currently only applies to houses in multiple occupation that have three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people. It is being extended to cover one/two storey houses in multiple occupation which are occupied by five or more people.”

Landlords that fall within the new criteria who don't have a license are in breach of the new legislation and therefore guilty of breaking the law.

Tenants must be shown that the property in question is licenced before they move in or before a new assured shorthold tenancy is issued to an existing tenant. Failure to do so means a landlord would not be able to legally serve a Section 21 eviction notice in the future.

New minimum space requirements

  • Rooms used for sleeping by one person over 10 must be no smaller than 6.51 square metres
  • Rooms slept in by two people over 10 must be no smaller than 10.22 square metres
  • Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger must be no smaller than 4.64 square metres

Why was it introduced?

With the number of people residing in the private rented sector growing by the year, the Government is keen to ensure standards are high across the board, whether through upping energy efficiency standards, rooting out rogue landlords or stopping overcrowding

The new space and storage requirements came in light of numerous stories about overcrowding, particularly in London, and isolated stories of rubbish piling up outside some rental homes.

While only a tiny minority of landlords are responsible for this, improving standards more generally and limiting the chances of rogue landlords slipping through the net is surely a move that will be welcomed by all operating in the industry – even if it is yet another new piece of legislation to contend with. 

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