United Kingdom

Could HMOs solve asylum housing?

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A book with the title "HMO Regulations"

The government is under pressure over its plan to move asylum seekers from hotels to unlicensed HMOs.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is supporting a legal challenge to stop the policy, arguing that it will lead to a fall in housing standards. They add that there is a risk that it could create a two-tier housing system.

According to the government, HMOs will provide more cost-effective accommodation than the current policy of housing asylum seekers in hotels, which the Home Office estimates is costing around £8 million per day. Other alternative solutions, like using barges, have been hit by practical obstacles as well as legal challenges.

What changes is the government trying to make?

Earlier this year, the government temporarily exempted housing for asylum seekers from HMO licensing requirements. Any HMO that begins use as asylum accommodation before 30 June 2024 will have a two-year grace period before it requires an HMO license.

The government’s objective is to make more housing available for asylum seekers, and quickly. HMOs are often highly regulated at the local level, with councils setting strict requirements around issues such as fire safety. They are also frequently more difficult to manage than other rental properties, with landlords having to mediate tenant disputes as well as the usual work involved.

By giving landlords more time to meet their regulatory obligations, the government hopes to increase the number of properties that can be used as asylum accommodation. But unless landlords use the grace period to get their properties licensed, they could face the same problem again in 2026.

The court hearing is currently scheduled for next February.

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