I hate to interrupt private conversations, but we have equipped local authorities with robust powers to regulate both the standards and the management of houses in multiple occupation, or HMOs. These include mandatory and additional HMO licensing, civil penalties of up to £30,000, rent repayment orders and, for the worst offenders, banning orders. Local authorities also have planning powers to limit the proliferation of small HMOs within their area, and of course we will continue to monitor closely this part of the housing sector.
I recently held a public meeting arising from the many concerns expressed by local residents regarding HMOs that have been developed, and more HMOs that are being developed, in a particular area. The issues they were very much concerned about were antisocial behaviour and poorly developed conversions of houses into HMOs. I am aware of a young person paying £1,000 to rent a single room in one of those HMOs. The councils can put in place article 4, but that takes 12 to 18 months, on the basis of the Government’s agreeing to it. My residents want to know: what more can the Government do to support them, and to give local authorities the regulation they need to act earlier?
I am obliged to the hon. Lady for her question, and she is right that in Bellingham, Downham, Grove Park and Whitefoot, article 4 restrictions are in place. We have provided more than 180 authorities with further funding for enforcement powers, and she will know that her council can bring to bear a range of powers to ensure that HMOs are properly maintained. The conditions that can be imposed on mandatory licences include that gas safety is properly recognised and electrical appliances are in order, that fire and smoke alarms are properly installed and maintained, and that the property ought to be improved. Her local authority has all the tools it needs, and we will keep the issue under review. I am always happy to talk to her and other colleagues about this matter.