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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The government remained committed to introduce legislation to license houses in multiple occupation to improve the safety and welfare of occupants, housing minister Lord Rooker told peers.

By convention, especially in the overspill session of parliament, ministers cannot anticipate contents of the Queen's Speech, but Lord Rooker insisted the ODPM was working on legislation.

He was replying to Liberal Democrat Baroness Maddock, said she was disappointed the government had not already acted to put that committment - made in the last two Labour Party manifestos and the housing green paper - into effect. It was extraordinary the government had not found time for legislation, given its commitments on health spending and eradicating fuel poverty.

Lord Rooker insisted: 'People tend to forget that we are still in the first parliamentary session after the most recent general election. The department is working on this legislation - it is not on the back burner - because some two million people live in houses of multiple occupation and many are at risk.

'Generally speaking, HMOs are less safe than single-family households. We are actively pursuing legislation, which will be introduced as quickly as possible'.

The minister said the government thought a five-year licence for a dwelling in multiple occupation would cost about£100. He would have no argument that this would force landlords to price students out of property.

He continued: 'There is, however, an argument about the definition of property in multiple occupation. We therefore intend to license the properties at greatest risk - those of three storeys or more and accomodating five people or more.

'Although regulation would cover much student accomodation, such houses are very unsafe places to live. On average, every week in this country three people in dwellings of multiple occupation die because of fire'.

Lord Rooker said the aim of licensing was not to reduce the private rented housing stock, but to make HMOs safer.

Hansard 21 Oct: Column 1064-1066

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