National minimum bedroom size for rented properties – a much awaited regulation

With housing becoming unaffordable to a great extent in London because of price inflation over the years, landlords saw a big opportunity to earn an extra income by renting out whatever additional space was available at homes to tenants.

This window of opportunities was so big that violations relating to rented accommodation were on the rise, and often went unnoticed, as landlords continued to rent space without taking consideration the minimum living standards. But the government has now intervened at the right moment to define a national minimum bedroom size for rented properties in order to rein in on landlords, who are fleecing the tenants while rental rates continue to climb.

This proposal to define a national minimum bedroom size needs to be welcomed and supported wholeheartedly by the stakeholders of housing because this regulation has been long overdue. There have been instances of landlords squeezing in as many tenants as possible in a home, thereby grossly reducing the standards of living in London. We are a developed nation, and we have set standards and benchmarks in housing. We cannot afford to lower them, particularly, when affordable housing has become a heated topic in London.

The latest standard proposed for a bedroom in shared accommodation – 6.5 square metres or 70 square feet – will bring relief to tenants, who often had to put up with the harsh restrictions imposed by their landlords. The new proposal makes it a criminal offence for landlords to reduce the space of a bedroom or rent a bedroom, which measures less than 6.5 sq mtrs. In an industry like this, self-regulation is always the best way forward. But in the absence of such an approach, the government was forced to bring in this new proposal.

This is not for the first time that the government is defining the bedroom size. The same has already been defined by the Housing Act, 1985. However, a case that came up before a local Tribunal and the judgments passed thereafter had created confusion in the rented accommodation sector. Now, the new proposal will clear all such confusions by defining the minimum space for a bedroom.

The fact that the Department for Communities and Local Government has given the Local Authorities the liberty to increase the national minimum bedroom size beyond 6.5 sq mtrs depending on the local requirements is a refreshing move in a sector where market forces dictate the rental rates. It is to be seen how this proposal takes shape going forward considering that the rental rates have hit as high as 1,000 British Pounds in London these days.

The development is also an indication to another dimension of the impact of the prevailing housing crisis. It is a widely accepted fact that buying a home in London is highly challenging considering the price inflation and other factors. While the stakeholders are working out various models to make housing affordable to all, the issue of rented accommodation is also of paramount importance. The government has cracked the whip and this hopefully should mark the beginning of the streamlining of the rented properties in London.