Tenants in shared houses are facing the end of the sitting room for Generation Rent, as landlords increasingly convert every possible space into bedrooms.
According to The Times, analysis of room rentals on house and flat sharing portals found that just one third of properties have communal space.
In London, only one-tenth of flat-shares have communal space such as a lounge.
The Times says that even upmarket properties in exclusive postcodes are being turned into bedsits, with landlords turning reception rooms into bedrooms.
The Times also says that some conversions result in tiny bedrooms, and that some conversions ignore Building Regulations and are potentially unsafe.
It also says that illegal bedsits are being advertised with impunity online, including on one property website that has received taxpayer funding to help it grow.
The Times also says that some bedsits are in HMO properties which should be licensed, but are not, pointing out that licensing is mandatory for rental properties with five or more unrelated sharers.
The paper analysed 100 rooms offered in five-bedroom properties on the most popular house-share website and found that only 12% were registered as approved HMOs.
Susie Crolla, of the Guild of Letting & Management, described the figures as “shocking but not that surprising”.
The Times says that the biggest website, Spareroom, does not routinely check whether its rooms are legally compliant or are in a property with an HMO licence.
However Spareroom told the paper that checking every property is not straightforward because there is no central database and each council holds the information differently.
The Times investigation also highlights Spotahome, whose chief operating officer is a founder of Uber.
The Times says: “The website does not allow prospective tenants to view rooms, instead posting pictures and videos online. Nor does it check whether homes have a licence.
“In one case, it was listing a 49 sq m, two-bed flat that had been converted into a five-bed. Every bedroom was smaller than the minimum allowed. One was 4.92 sq m, little bigger than a double bed. The illegal conversion had been visited and ‘approved’ by a Spotahome checker.
“In 2015, the taxpayer-backed British Business Bank invested £17.5m in a venture capital fund called Passion Capital, which used part of the money to invest in Spotahome.com.”
The Times also quotes an un-named traditional letting agent who said he had reported half a dozen unlicensed HMOs to several councils six months ago but had heard nothing back.
He said: “These homes are not difficult to spot, they are brazenly advertised online. The failure of councils to enforce the rules is allowing these landlords to get away with it and is making the job of diligent agents much harder.”
By ROSALIND RENSHAW
Source: Property Industry Eye