The Home Office has put forward a Statutory Instrument before Parliament to amend The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) (England) Regulations 2019. It is proposing to remove the obligation for landlords to obtain a HMO licence when providing accommodation to house asylum seekers.
The measure has been put forward as a more cost-effective solution and to expedite the process of finding accommodation for those granted asylum.
There are major concerns that this move could legalise sub-standard accommodation for asylum seekers, as well as enabling rogue landlords to evict existing tenants and instead house asylum seekers at higher rent levels. At a time where is already a lack of supply in the PRS this can only exacerbate the situation.
Isobel Thomson, safeagent chief executive, says:
“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’. This is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum attached to the Statutory Instrument (link).
“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.
“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.
“safeagent urges the Home Office to consider the unintended consequences of removing HMO licensing. We understand the need to find accommodation solutions but believe that a consultation should have taken place on this important change, and not merely have been dismissed because of time constraints.”