Government to remove licensing requirements for landlords housing asylum seekers

The Government is planning to temporarily remove licensing requirements for asylum-seeker accommodation as it attempts to move thousands out of hotels, in a move critics have warned will put their safety at risk.

The changes would allow landlords to house asylum seekers for two years without getting the property recognised as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The Guardian reported the plans would create exemptions from regulations governing electrical safety and minimum room sizes in such accommodation.

Housing minister Felicity Buchan told a Commons Delegated Legislation Committee the Government had laid secondary legislation as “part of a broader suite of measures that the Home Office is implementing” to “speed up” the moving of asylum seekers out of hotels.

Almost 50,000 people are currently in hotels on top of approximately 57,000 in long-standing asylum accommodation.

Labour MPs condemned the plans, with Kim Leadbeater branding the statutory instrument “another clear example of the utter mess” the Government has made of the immigration system and Matthew Pennycook warning it would mean “no minimum standards whatsoever” apply to asylum housing.

Mr Pennycook said: “Of course it will be cheaper to house asylum seekers in accommodation without gas safety certificates, without safe electrical appliances and furniture, without working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and without shared amenity facilities that meet minimum standards.”

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Felicity Buchan MP. (Aaron Chown, PA)

The Guardian quoted Mary Atkinson, campaigns and network manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, as saying: “Without HMO licences, already traumatised people will be at risk of living in places that are unfit for human habitation.”

The plans could be approved as soon as Wednesday, which will otherwise be dominated by the publication of the Government’s long-awaited rental reforms to abolish so-called “no fault” evictions.

A Government spokesman said: “The use of expensive hotels to house the unprecedented number of asylum seekers crossing the Channel is unacceptable and must end.

“By temporarily removing this licensing requirement, we will be able to acquire more suitable long-term accommodation while continuing to meet our legal duty of care.

“This will not compromise standards and all properties will be independently inspected for quality to ensure they continue to meet national housing quality requirements.”