Sarah Newton, the Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, has welcomed new government plans to tighten rules on private landlords to ensure higher standards for people living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
Mrs Newton, a longstanding campaigner for improvements to the private rented sector, is now pressing the government to go further before the proposals become law later this year.
Under the plans, landlords who rent properties in England that are occupied by five or more people, from two or more separate households, will need to be licensed.
And councils will be able to take further action to crack down on rogue landlords who rent sub-standard and overcrowded homes.
There are a number of student HMOs in Falmouth and Penryn due to the rapid expansion of Falmouth and Exeter universities.
Truro also has a number of HMOs used by student nurses and doctors working at Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Mrs Newton said: “HMOs can provide cheaper accommodation for people with limited housing options and are often occupied by the most vulnerable in our society.
“While many HMOs are managed to good standards, too often we see examples of bad practice from rogue landlords who are happy to rake in profits but care less about issues like overcrowding, health and safety, waste storage and anti-social behaviour.
“The government’s plans to extend compulsory licensing of HMOs will help to create a level playing field between landlords and make life better for tenants and local communities.”
After the plans were published in December, following a lengthy consultation, Mrs Newton wrote to Ministers to make a series of further requests to strengthen legislation.
She wants local authorities that license HMOs to be able to share information with:
- HMRC, to ensure landlords are paying the correct amount of tax
- The Ministry of Housing and possibly the Treasury, to ensure authorities are correctly compensated for the loss of council tax revenue from student HMOs (students don’t pay council tax)
- Partner organisations such as the police, NHS and Department for Work and Pensions, so safeguarding for vulnerable tenants can be improved
Mrs Newton said: “The information local authorities collect as they license HMOs could be very valuable and, if shared with relevant partners, could bring a number of wider benefits.”
The latest government plans follow a range of other measures to tackle rogue landlords.
These include a new enforcement system introduced last year – initially funded by a grant Mrs Newton helped to secure – which gives Cornwall Council greater powers to take action.
Mrs Newton said: “It’s a shame Cornwall Council has chosen not to voluntarily license or register more private rented property.
“But this mandatory licensing of HMOs is a significant step in the right direction to improve standards.
“Also, as a result of these changes it should be easier for Cornwall Council to calculate the loss of council tax from student accommodation and seek compensation through business rate retention, which is an important source of council funding.”