Councils in England are to get new powers to tackle landlords squeezing too many tenants into overcrowded homes.

The new rules will impose a minimum room size of 6.52 square metres in a shared house of multiple occupation (HMO) where five or more people live.

The aim is to stop landlords from cramming tenants into small shared homes.

Other measures announced by housing minister Gavin Barwell included:

  • Extending mandatory HMO licensing to all homes shared by five or more people making up at least two households
  • Making flats above shops and businesses part of the mandatory licensing regime
  • Insisting HMO landlords provide facilities to store and dispose of rubbish
  • Carrying out criminal record and ‘fit and proper’ person checks on HMO landlords and managers more diligently

Mandatory HMO licensing currently encompasses around 60,000 homes in England. This number is expected to swell by at least 170,000 more shared homes when the changes come into effect.

“To build a country that truly works for everyone we must ensure that everyone has somewhere safe and secure to live,” said Barwell.

“These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area.

“By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules out of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.”

Most of Barwell’s statement was a repeat of policy papers released in 2015.

The room size rules arise from a court case lost by Oxford City Council last year. The council declined a licence for an HMO with a bedroom measuring just 5 square metres. The court decided that room size guidance provided by councils was for information and not legally binding.

Penalties for flouting the new HMO standards will include jail and fines of up to £30,000.