0:01 AM, 4th May 2023, About 7 months ago 17
Critics are lining up to condemn a government plan to remove the HMO licencing regulations for landlords who will house asylum seekers.
Housing and refugee charities have condemned the move as ‘shameful’ and an ‘assault on human rights’.
The condemnation follows a draft law that has been quietly published which would remove a landlord’s obligation to get a licence for their HMO (house in multiple occupation) if it is used for asylum seekers.
There are fears that removing the licence requirement is simply a way to speed up the process of offering asylum accommodation without having to wait for a council inspection.
Safer Renting says that HMO licences are a crucial part of council enforcement of housing standards and says the move would see asylum seekers being placed in a home ‘that isn’t fit for human habitation’.
A spokeswoman for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the move was ‘extremely concerning’ and a ‘shameful example’ of the government’s ‘assault on the rights of people seeking safety’.
Polly Neate of Shelter told one news outlet that HMO licensing was brought in to keep people safe and by removing these protections, the government is ‘putting thousands of people at serious risk’.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, furnished accommodation.
“Recent legislation on HMOs does not remove minimum accommodation standards. It exempts accommodation providers from needing a licence for an HMO in line with existing exemptions for registered providers of social housing.
“All accommodation providers will have to continue to meet or exceed the ‘decent homes standard’, including meeting all statutory and regulatory requirements relating to room sizes, facilities and fire safety.”
Now the chief executive of safeagent, Isobel Thomson, fears that the removal of HMO licenses could enable rogue landlords to evict existing tenants and house asylum seekers in sub-standard accommodation.
She said: “The Home Office’s proposal to remove HMO licencing requirements when housing asylum seekers is of significant concern.
“We are doubtful that the lifting of licence regulations and exemption from local licensing fees for properties used to house asylum seekers will serve them, local communities or the wider private rented sector well.
“The fact that the Government has not consulted on these proposals is worrying, as is the Home Office’s assertion that there will be ‘no, or no significant, impact on business’.”
Ms Thomson continued: “We must remember that HMO licensing is about more than just ensuring adequate room sizes and preventing overcrowding.
“The existing requirements are there to keep occupiers, their neighbours and the wider community safe and secure.
“HMO licencing covers a wide spectrum of issues from gas and electrical safety, to heating, light and ventilation to the provision of washing and food preparation facilities – all of which are regarded as basic human rights.”
She added: “There is a real risk that the government could create a situation where rogue landlords – who already undermine the great work being done by the majority – further damage the sector’s credibility by exploiting regulatory circumstances around some of the most vulnerable tenants.
“The Home Office also refers to a ‘robust inspection regime’ to provide assurances on the safety of the accommodation.
“But there is no detail on what criteria would be used to manage inspections, nor on how standards would be enforced.”