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Houses In Multiple Occupation

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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7.

What steps he is taking to improve the condition of houses in multiple occupation. [112946]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

The Government published a draft housing Bill on 31 March, taking forward our commitment to introduce the mandatory licensing of larger houses in multiple occupation, and also a new housing health and safety rating system.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I am sure that he is aware of the growth in the number of houses of multiple occupation in places such as Loughborough, which is trying to accommodate large increases in the number of students, and of the problems that that is causing in the centre of town. Will my hon. Friend ensure that any licensing system has real teeth so that we can try to tackle the problem and give local residents a real choice? Also, will he look again at the current exemption given to landlords? If their houses are occupied by students, they are exempt from paying council tax. Those landlords run the houses as businesses, and they are benefiting from that exemption.

I hear what my hon. Friend says about council tax. We do not want students to be liable for council tax. In connection with quality of housing, it is precisely because so many students live in substandard housing that we want to extend the definition of HMO to cover student housing, and to allow for the licensing of student landlords in certain circumstances. However, my hon. Friend will be aware that the Conservative party has devised a novel solution to the problem of poor student housing—it is going to cut the number of students.

Is the Minister aware that many small guest houses in Norfolk towns have closed, and have become bed and breakfast establishments and homes in multiple occupation? That has encouraged a lot of youngsters on the dole—the so-called Costa del Dole syndrome. What does he plan to do to discourage that from happening?

The hon. Gentleman mentioned specific issues that affect many seaside towns with areas where many tenants live in single large blocks, in bedsits and so forth. It is precisely because some of those larger houses of multiple occupation need licensing and better management that the Government are introducing the housing Bill that is now in draft.