The Government is proposing a new minimum size for bedrooms in rental properties to tackle overcrowding and to prevent landlords from carving up houses into tiny rooms to maximise rental income.
An increase in tiny bedrooms, especially in bigger cities like London and Birmingham, has led to a call for a crackdown on “rabbit hutch properties”. These properties are usually houses of multiple occupation where small rooms akin to cupboards are rented out as a bedroom, sometimes for over £1,000 a month.
The proposal is that all bedrooms should be over 6.5 square metres (70 square feet), and any landlords found charging for smaller spaces would face prosecution.
There have been cases where “bedrooms” have actually been floating shelves with a mattress over other rooms – so called “semi-studios” or “mezzanine sleeping areas”. In one case, a tenant had to climb on top of a refrigerator and then up a ladder to get to their “bedroom”. In Hendon, North London, tenants had to crawl through a 70cm high entrance space to reach their room.
The Housing Act 1985 does specify a minimum space, having regard to the number of occupants, but a case in April 2015 threw local authorities into confusion. A Manchester landlord was taken to a tribunal for renting out a bed deck above a box-room measuring 5.8 square metres. Manchester City Council argued that this breached the minimum space standards, but the upper tribunal of the Lands Chamber ruled in favour of the landlord. This has prompted fears that landlords will try and flout the rules in a mass free-for-all.
The ruling basically means that each property has to be considered on its own merits. However, if the Government does step in and passes legislation to clamp down on rogue landlords, it should make it easier for local authorities to intervene and attempt to raise housing standards.
Being a landlord, or a tenant, can be complicated if you do not know your rights or what is expected from you. Further information is available on the gov.uk website.
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