Last edited 12 Nov 2015

Minimum bedroom size proposals

The Department for Communities and Local Government has set out plans to introduce a national minimum bedroom size in an attempt at combating overcrowding and rogue landlords.

The ideas, introduced in a discussion paper, would allow local authorities in England to ban rooms from being let as bedrooms where they are smaller than 6.5 sq m (70 sq ft). The aim is to improve standards of shared homes by extending mandatory licensing to smaller and medium-sized properties, with landlords who fail to obtain a license potentially facing an unlimited fine.

It is believed that some unscrupulous landlords have been seeking to maximise rental income by carving up rooms to increase tenant capacity, something that Housing minister Brandon Lewis has labeled “totally unacceptable”. Letting agents have described these divided-up living spaces as ‘semi-studios’ or ‘mezzanine sleeping areas’.

Mr Lewis said: “People are living in cramped, unsafe accommodation provided by landlords who are more interested in a quick profit than the safety or welfare of their tenants. The actions of these rogue landlords are helping fuel illegal working, benefit fraud, and illegal immigration by creating a shadow housing market that carries dangers to people’s health as well as communities.”

The proposals are an attempt by the government to head off legal challenges by landlords after a case in April 2015 prompted fears of a free-for-all. Minimum space standards are specified by the 1985 Housing Act, however, a tribunal case in April concerning a Manchester landlord who had converted the cellar of a Victorian terrace into a bedroom measuring 5.8 sq m, ruled in favour of the landlord, sparking confusion among local authorities.

The ruling could be taken to mean that each property had to be considered on its own merits and that local councils could not make blanket regulations regarding the size of bedrooms.

David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, said: “The consultation is a step in the right direction. There are a minority of rogue agents and landlords bringing the sector into disrepute, and anything that can be done to try and eliminate these is a good thing. We must focus our scarce resources on removing the rogue and criminal landlords and agents and this can only be done through enforcement, not administration.”

You can read the discussion paper here.