Welcome to the first Newsround of 2018. What has been happening since the last Newsround last year?
It’s been a while coming but it looks now as if, from Appril, HMO licenses will be required for ALL HMO properties with five or more people in two or more households (essentially where they are not all blood relations), not just those with three or more storeys.
This will bring many more properties into the scope of licensing, it is believed some 160,000, and so will be a nasty shock for many landlords. The good news is that the fiendishly complex law on storeys will no longer be relevant.
That’s not all though. The vexed issue of minimum room sizes is also to be resolved:
Rooms used for sleeping by one adult will have to be no smaller than 6.51 square metres, and those slept in by two adults will have to be no smaller than 10.22 square metres. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger will have to be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.
The HMO licence must specify the maximum number of persons (if any) who may occupy any room and the total number across the different rooms must be the same as the number of persons for whom the property is suitable to live in.
It also looks as if landlords are going to be made responsible for ensuring that their tenants comply with the council’s rules on refuse and recycling.
I’m not sure exactly how that is to be done – generally, in English law, a person cannot be held legally liable for something that is actually done by someone else. After all, husbands are no longer liable for their wives debts.
We shall see.
As usual, we have a crop of Grenfell related stories starting with a heartfelt article in the Guardian from David Lammy stating that those responsible for the Grenfell horror must face criminal charges or there is no justice in the world.
I have to say that David Lammy seems to me to be one of the few politicians who has come out of this with honour.
The Inquiry into the disaster led by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick has proved controversial as its scope is to be limited by excluding social housing policy issues.
The independent Human Rights Commission has now announced that they will be carrying out their own enquiry – which is set to be published in April, before the official inquiry’s findings.
“We are the UK’s national human rights body and we have a statutory duty to promote equality and human rights,” [the commission’s chair, David] Isaac said in an interview with the Observer. “We think the human rights dimension to Grenfell Tower is absolutely fundamental and is currently overlooked. Grenfell for most people in this country, particularly in the way the government has reacted, is a pretty defining moment in terms of how inequality is perceived.”
The Management Organisation
The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) has now decided to hand back management of housing back to the Council in the aftermath of the disaster.
However, it will continue as an organisation and is carrying out
an urgent and thorough review of all the KCTMO’s operations including health and safety, finance, repairs and estate management services.
It’s not clear whether they are then going to take back management or not once this is over.
The end of section 21?
Jeremy Corbyn has hinted that the abolition of the no-fault section 21 eviction process may be part of the next Labour Patry Manifesto.
This will be a fundamental change and many will worry that this will spell the end of the private sector as it is, with landlords selling up to avoid being stuck with nightmare tenants.
It remains to be seen whether this is a real threat, although Nearly Legal has written a ‘mischevious’ article saying it may be less significant that many people think.
Gas Safety – HSE bias?
Another news item which caught my eye was this one in Property Industry Eye on complaints that the Health and Safety Executive, who are responsible for enforcing the Gas Regulations, are failing to do their job properly by failing to prosecute a social housing landlord, Luminus Homes, for breaches of gas safety in over 1,000 properties.
Terry Lovett, of Lovett Sales & Lettings in St Neots, Cambridgeshire is so incensed by this that he has written to his local MP
“For any organisation, managing tenanted property to have just ONE gas appliance that has not been certified safe is a criminal offence subject to a £6,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.
“To have over 1,000 non-compliant properties is beyond incompetence and ALL directors of Luminus should have faced the full force of the law if it is to discourage other landlords and managing agents from escaping their legal responsibilities.”
Luminus say that they had identified a problem with the servicing of gas boilers in June 2016, it had been fully compliant since last January, and that they had co-operated with both the Homes and Community Agency and HSE investigations.
Here are a few other news items that may have passed you by:
Ga Safe Register re-tender – you may recall that the Gas Safe Register took over from Corgi a while back – their contract is now up for re-tender
Property 118 has an interesting story about shipping container homes being used for the homeless in Ealing
The Law Commission have announced a new project looking at electronic signatures. Long overdue in my opinion, the law on this is still stuck in the dark ages.
Newsround will be back with more news stories next week.