The accidental landlord:will the Government's new minimum room size make renting more expensive?

The accidental landlord is worried the Government's planned legislation for minimum room sizes will only push up the cost of renting for cash-strapped tenants...

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There was a moment of panic, I must admit, when I heard the Government was planning to introduce a new “minimum room size” for rental accommodation early next year — because I let a bedroom in which, quite frankly, there is barely room to swing a cat.

It is a very popular room that’s always snapped up fast. I would like to tell you that is because the rest of the flat is amazing and the location is second to none, but you wouldn’t believe me. Of course, the real reason the room is popular is because it is cheap.

The rent is about £170 a month less than anything else in the area and the only downside for the tenant is that they have a little less floor space. As most of those who take the room are students, this simply means fewer piles of discarded clothes.

Anyway, I checked the dimensions of the room and it’s actually larger than the Government’s proposed minimum room size of 70sq ft — but only just.

It has a small double bed with drawers below for additional storage, a two-door wardrobe, an L-shaped small desk and a narrow chest of drawers. 

There’s a large window providing plenty of natural daylight and fresh air, although I think my tenants rarely open the curtains, let alone the window. I have noticed the current occupier of the room even has a TV on top of the drawers.

I think the space is more than adequate for just one tenant. Three others share the flat but it has only one bathroom and one loo, so I don’t think there is scope for more than four tenants in total.

Assuming a room has a window, sufficient headroom and is large enough for an adult-size bed; the rest of the property isn’t overcrowded; all tenants have sufficient washing and cooking facilities, adequate storage and somewhere to socialise, it is just fine in my book. 

If these new room size rules are introduced, the Government will just succeed in further pushing up the cost of renting for the many sharers who struggle to afford somewhere to live. 

Not only will lots of cheap rooms disappear from the market overnight, but larger rooms will also become more expensive because if landlords are blocked from letting small bedrooms, they will more than likely push up the rents for the others.

Minimum room sizes will only apply to licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation, or HMOs, so landlords will still be able to let small rooms in non-licensed properties. 

However, the Government is also planning to extend mandatory HMO licensing to include all properties with five sharers or more. At the moment, mandatory licensing only applies to homes with three storeys or more.

It is good that the Government wants to raise standards in rental accommodation and I think it is probably sensible to license all larger properties, in order to prevent dangerous overcrowding. However,  I cannot see that introducing a minimum room size will do anything except make renting more expensive.

  • Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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