Vulnerable tenants need better protections against unscrupulous landlords who provide sub-standard shared houses, an MP has said.
Tory MP Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) said the current rules do not go far enough to protect tenants or local communities, with two adults allowed to live in spaces “no bigger than a garden shed”.
Introducing his Houses in Multiple Occupation Bill, he told the Commons: “The very nature of the accommodation provided by houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) often means that those who have fallen upon hard times or are suffering from mental health issues, drug or alcohol abuse or, in a lot of cases, as reported to me by the police, domestic abuse.
“These are vulnerable people who we have a duty to safeguard. Allowing HMOs to exist by disguising them as hostels, hotels and bed and breakfasts not only denies the tenant the security of tenure but also means that the accommodation doesn’t face the true scrutiny that it should.”
He added: “I believe it is vital that a stricter regime of checks and measures is imposed upon landlords to make sure the safeguarding of clients is kept at the forefront.”
HMOs are homes where residents share common areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, under one roof.
Mr Levy said he would like to see greater powers for councils to deal with the development and governance of HMOs.
He added this would require large HMOs “to provide a nominated person to be responsible for the residents living there on a 24/7 basis”.
“This would allow a point of contact for the authorities and for the local community to highlight the issues and where possible address them in a way that safeguards both the individuals and the local community,” he added.
Mr Levy said neighbours of HMOs can also suffer when lots of people share houses which typically cater for fewer residents.
He added: “I also want to ensure that someone being able to buy a house in a sub-prime area and dividing that house into multiple bedrooms, while showing absolutely no care for the individual or the local residents, becomes a thing of the past.
“What I would like to see is a balance given to the community so the clients feel safe and part of that community and that the public living in and around the vicinities of HMOs feel that they can live and integrate with the clients and that respect and safeguarding is shown to all.”
The Bill was introduced without a vote, with a second reading scheduled for February 5 2021.
It has little chance of making further progress in its current form without Government backing.