Minimum Room Sizes for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Minimum room sizes are to be introduced for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from October, to ensure that rooms are suitable for adult habitation.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) have long been regarded as the most appropriate accommodation for students, for the poorest and, since Single Room Rents were introduced from October 1998, the only properties for which full rent may be payable, for the under-25 benefit dependent. A more recent change has imposed this on the under-35’s. 

I have made my protests about this in the past, as someone in their early 30’s could have been in a long-term relationship and have children. Yet they would only be entitled to the housing element of Universal Credit to a room in a shared property. Few parents would consider this suitable accommodation to allow any kind of access to a child.

I have also seen a fair number of bedsits in HMO’s. Some of them have been made into cosy and cheap places for the young to live. Others have been appalling. I stood in one and could touch both sides of the room with outstretched arms – and I don’t have long arms! The landlady had addressed the issue of a small room by providing a cabin bed, with a small wardrobe underneath. Hardly suitable for an adult occupant.

I am not usually in favour of legislation which all too often seems to create more problems for landlords and have little effect on the comfort of the tenant (despite protestations to the contrary), but changes to minimum room sizes from 1st October 2018 will benefit some tenants comfort and perhaps even the landlord’s, because there will be a new space standard introduced as part of the mandatory licensing regulations from October 2018. From that date, all properties with 5 or more tenants, living in 2 or more households, will have to meet the new space standard with minimum room sizes. Blocks of purpose-built flats with 3 or more units of accommodation, are exempt from the new size standard.

Rooms which are used for adults or children over 10 years of age for sleeping in (and in a bedsit, probably cooking, eating and living in) must be a minimum of 6.51 sq. Metres or 21.15 sq. Feet. A couple require a minimum of 10.22 sq. Metres or 33.21 sq. Feet. There is not a great deal you can do if one or more of your rooms do not meet this space standard, other than acknowledge it to your tenant and hope he will wait for you to find him alternative accommodation. Properties this small must be suffering from condensation, which will affect decorating and perhaps furnishings, which could be nature’s way of telling you that is not adequate.

There is a positive side to this, however. Hopefully, most landlords reading this will be fully aware of how big even their smallest room is. So the tenant who complains about a room that is too small can be re-assured – it is bigger than the minimum space standard. You can ‘sell’ your rooms on the size of them – again, bigger than the minimum space standard and sometimes even as big as room for double occupancy.

It’s a hassle for landlords, but take your tape-measure, get an accurate reading of the size by measuring the long and the short wall and multiplying the figures to get a square footage or meter reading. Record it for each property so if challenged, you can provide the measurements. Do it before October and you will be ahead of the game – and it’s not often that private sector landlords can say that!

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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