Sub-letting abuse will not be stopped by Government’s new over-crowding measuresMake Text Bigger
Landlord Action is in full support of the Government’s latest proposal to crack down on rogue landlords. In particular, those who carve up properties to creative multiple sub-standard sized rooms in a bid to maximise their rental income. Imposing a minimum square footage per room, as a legal requirement, will help reduce the number of over-crowded, unsafe properties. However, it will not prevent sub-letting scams, which are often the lead cause of ‘rabbit-hutch rooms’, and will require greater enforcement resources to be effective.
The consultation paper explores the options for extending the scope of mandatory licensing of houses in multiple occupation, to smaller and medium sized properties. Widening the net of properties to which the rules apply and setting a minimum room size of 6.5 square metre (70sqft), aims to make it easier for local authorities to raise standards in properties used as shared homes.
There is in fact only a small proportion of landlords who abuse the system in this way. Nevertheless, they are guilty of exploiting the vulnerable whilst profiting from the housing crisis, particularly in the capital. Therefore, anything which helps to eliminate this problem and impose proper sanctions in the case of violation, is a positive step forward.
However, there are two key hindrances with these proposed new measures; enforcement and sub-letting. One of the biggest problems with implementing any new legislation is enforcement. Local councils do not have enough resources as it is, with Environmental Health Officers (EHO) already responsible for monitoring overcrowding, sub-letting, poor conditions, and most recently retaliation eviction. There is no room in our sector for rogue landlords, but to tackle the problem properly, legislation needs to be backed up by more boots on the ground.
The leading culprits of setting up uninhabitable rooms are not just rogue landlords, but in fact tenants posing as landlords and sub-letting properties to unaware tenants. Landlord Action has never seen so many sub-letting cases as it has over the last two years, with an 18% increase. This has been fueled by sky high rents preventing some tenants from being able to afford even single-unit accommodation, forcing many to resort to bedsits or shared accommodation.
In a recent North London sub-letting case handled by Landlord Action, partition walls were erected to create more bedrooms, most were barely large enough to fit a single mattress in, and the rogue tenant was sub-letting each “room” for £750 per month.
Cases like this are not only damaging to the property and financially devastating for landlords, but are also extremely unsafe, creating untold health and safety issues, particularly relating to fire safety and sanitation issues. They should also act as a reminder to landlords of the importance of carrying out thorough tenant referencing checks, as well as regular property inspections.
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