Unscrupulous landlords have been warned that they face hefty fines for letting out unsuitable or cramped rooms to desperate renters under new a law that came into force this month.
Buy-to-let landlords who rent property to five or more people from two different households must now adhere to new rules governing minimum room sizes. They also need to register for a licence from the local council that stipulates exactly how many tenants can live in their property, along with ensuring fire alarms are working and gas and electrical equipment is safe.
A child's bedroom must be at least 50 sq ft under the new rules, while a single room for an adult must be no smaller than 70 sq ft. A double for two adults must measure at least 110 sq ft.
Landlords who flout the new laws can expect fines of up to £30,000 or prosecution.
There have been several cases of landlords putting financial gain over the health and safety of their tenants. A London landlord who failed to register two houses as shared properties, and put his tenants at risk by not replacing faulty fire doors, was recently fined £19,000. While in a landmark case in Brighton, a landlord was fined £43,680 for, amongst other offences, allowing 12 renters to live in a house licensed for nine.
The new law has been welcomed by tenants groups who say it offers renters greater protection from rogue landlords. But there are concerns the £1,200 cost of new licences could be forced onto tenants. And some renters could face eviction if landlords are forced to limit the number of rooms they let out.
The government is also considering introducing longer-term three-year tenancies to stop 'revenge evictions' after a tenant makes a complaint about their landlord.
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