19 October 2016
Government to ban box rooms in dodgy landlord crackdown
The government have announced plans to introduce new rules to stop dodgy landlords ripping tenants off for sub-standard living conditions.
With student rent prices rising as much as 11% this year and the biggest uni rent strike the UK’s ever seen going on in London, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for student renters!
Not only this, but there’s a reported £250 shortfall each month where maintenance loans are concerned, as rising rent prices are leaving less and less cash available to help with other living costs.
But there is a tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel! The government have announced they’re introducing some new mandatory terms to renting laws in order to crackdown on rogue landlords exploiting tenants.
So what are the new rules?
Minimum bedroom size
There will be no more drawing straws or playing competitive games of Monopoly to work out which poor soul is forced in to take the tiny bedroom in your student digs that’s only fit for a washing machine!
Under the new rules, a landlord renting out a HMO (house in multiple occupancy – AKA most student houses) cannot rent out a room that is smaller than 70 sq ft (6.52 sq metres). Roughly, this is enough room for a single bed and a desk.
Bedrooms that are 50-70 sq ft count as ‘half bedrooms’ and are only suitable for children under ten, according to the Housing Act 1985. However, the current problem is that the Housing Act is considered a ‘guide’ and landlords don’t legally have to pay it much attention – so what good is that?
‘Fit and proper landlord’ test
Currently, councils are obliged to review anyone applying to become a registered landlord in order to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’, with no criminal record or issues with tenants in the past.
This law was put in place in order to weed out dodgy landlords, but according to Shelter, the test is easier to pass than it should be as most landlords will pass automatically unless the council is alerted to something fishy.
The government claims they’re planning to start clamping down on these tests in order to keep the private rental market safe, but we’ll see if that actually happens!
Storage and rubbish disposal
Another rule they’re planning to impose is that landlords need to provide adequate storage and rubbish disposal for properties due to health and safety concerns.
We guess this part will be pretty easy now with all these box bedrooms freeing up around the country!
Will the new plans really work?
It’s hoped that these new rules will help protect desperate tenants from being exploited by money-hungry landlords, but it’s still unclear how these changes will really be implemented, as the rules already in place to protect tenants are largely ignored.
It’s also unclear how the new minimum bedroom sizes will be regulated. You would hope that estate agents would refuse to market a room that’s too small but, as many students know – they don’t always play by the rules.
Also, if a landlord rents out a property without going through an agency, how will they be regulated? Will students viewing houses just have to bring a tape measure to check they’re not being ripped off?
Another potential issue is that the box room ban could even drive prices up for students. If a landlord is suddenly unable to rent out a box room, will they resort to increasing the rent for the other tenants to cover the cash they’re missing out on?
Apparently, the government is seeking to make these rules mandatory rather than just a guideline, so here’s hoping efforts will be made to make sure landlords play by the rules.
However, the government recently rejected a proposed law that rented accommodation should to be deemed fit for human habitation before they can be rented isn’t filling us with much hope that things will change any time soon!
Before you step into the world of student renting, make sure you check out our ultimate guide to viewing houses and always make sure you know your rights as a tenant. Don’t end up with a horror home like this!
Ever had to deal with a crooked landlord or a nightmare living situation? Tell us about your experience!
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