Tenants living in shared houses in England could face eviction or increases in rent because of changes to government rules, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has warned.
From Monday an extra 160,000 houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have to be registered with local councils, almost triple the current figure.
Tenants Union UK said any increases in rent would be unfair on tenants.
The government said the new rules would raise housing standards for tenants.
HMOs are homes where people, who are not related, sleep in separate rooms but share facilities such as kitchens or bathrooms.
Mainly students, migrants and low-paid workers live in the half a million HMO properties in England.
Currently about 64,000 of these HMOs are required to be licensed but the rule changes mean more properties will be required to be inspected and certificated by local authorities.
Previously only houses of more than three storeys and with five or more people forming at least two households had to be licensed.
The new rules remove the three-storey threshold and apply to smaller homes.
'The only way I can save money'
Rrouse, an environmental engineer from Leeds, has been living in HMOs for the past nine years, as he tries to save money to buy a house.
"Property prices are so high, so saving for a deposit is hard work, and rents for one-bed flats are extortionate. So the only way I can afford to build a deposit is to live in a HMO," he said.
"It's a sociable way to rent, but the quality of the properties can vary. I've had HMOs where gas leaks have been common, carpets haven't been fitted and whole kitchen units have fallen off the wall."
Figures from the Valuation Office Agency show that the private median rent for a room in England in 2017-18 was £385 a month.
Over the past three years median room rents in England have risen twice as fast as median wages, leaving tenants like Rrouse concerned about any future increases.
"If rents do go up because of this new legislation I've got friends who'll struggle to pay their rent because they just haven't got the cash," he said.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates the licensing process will on average cost landlords £1,200 each, and collectively, more than £95m.
Landlords say the extra licensing costs will result in rents having to be increased.
Some landlords are also expected to reduce the number of rooms they rent out, meaning existing tenants would face eviction.
The new rules, which only apply to properties in England, will also require landlords to provide extra refuse bins and make sure bedrooms within HMOs are a minimum size.
What is an HMO and what is changing?
- An HMO is a property occupied by more than one household and by more than two people. For a property to be classified as an HMO, the residents must be sharing at least one basic amenity (i.e. toilet, bathroom or kitchen)
- Examples of HMOs include bedsits, shared houses, student halls and hostels
- Under the old licensing scheme HMOs that were three or more storeys and occupied by five or more people forming at least two separate households were required to be licensed
- The new mandatory licensing of HMOs will be extended so that smaller properties (i.e. any storey height) that house five or more people in two or more separate households will also require a licence
Source: Centre for Economics and Business Research
The NLA said the new regulations though are the latest burden being placed on private sector landlords.
"Extra regulation will increase landlords costs," says Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA.
"When costs go up, like any other business, landlords will look to pass on that additional cost in the price, meaning tenants will pay more in rent.
"Some landlords will also reduce the number of rooms they rent out to try and comply with the legislation, meaning some tenants will face eviction."
What are your shared housing rights?
If you live in an HMO your landlord must:
- Keep shared areas clean and in good repair - for example staircases and corridors
- Install smoke alarms and provide a fire escape
- Repair faulty gas and electrical appliances - the property has to have a gas safety check every year and the electrics must be checked every five years
If your home does not meet the safety standards you should first complain to your landlord. If the problem is not fixed then you are advised to contact your local council.
The council should inspect the property and can tell your landlord to fix the problem if it does not meet safety standards.
If the landlord still does not follow the advice, the council can take over the management of the home in serious cases, such as your health or safety being at serious risk.
If this happens, usually for a 12-month period, your tenancy rights stay the same and you pay your rent to the council.
Source: Citizens Advice
The number of HMO licences has been increasing in recent years as more people look to rent privately.
Data from about 200 councils in England, obtained by a BBC Freedom of Information request, suggested the number of HMO licences has nearly trebled since 2013.
Ben Clay, from Tenants Union UK, said it would be wrong for landlords to increase rents because of the introduction of new legislation.
"Renters are already facing a perfect storm of rent increases at a time when more people are having to deal with shrinking wage packets," he added.
"We welcome this additional legislation, but we feel that there is still further to go and that all rented accommodation should be subject to regulation, to ensure standards rise."
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government said the new rules would help protect at least 850,000 more people in privately-rented homes.
A spokesman said: "While the vast majority of landlords provide decent accommodation, these measures are about raising standards in private rented homes where landlords knowingly flout their responsibilities.
"Many of the properties that will be covered by the new rules, already fall under existing licensing schemes that will be transferred into mandatory licensing free of charge, so there will be no additional costs to those landlords."