A New Minimum Bedroom Size Might Stop Bastard Landlords Renting Out Shoeboxes

But rooms can still be tiny.

by Biju Belinky
18 October 2016, 4:15pm

Photo by Carl Wilson

Good news (kind of). Landlords will no longer be able to shove a mattress into a mouldy cupboard and call it a "cozy flat with a lot of character", according to a government proposal to introduce a minimum size for bedrooms in rented houses.

The new standard, which was initially discussed in 2015, aims to change the current standard size of single bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation to 6.52m2 (70sq ft). At the moment, the recommended size of a bedroom specified in the Housing Act of 1985 is just "guidance" for landlords, meaning it's never been enforced. Which is why they have been able to get away with, quite literally, anything.

In 2011, the average size of a bedroom in a family home being sold by the UK's eight largest private house builders was 8m2, according to research by the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is pushing for stricter regulation and the end of "rabbit-hutch" rooms.

On Monday, housing charity Shelter published research on a new "living home standard", in which they asked people what they thought makes a property a decent place to live. More than one in 10 of those surveyed felt their homes did not have adequate space – which means having enough bedrooms, private spaces, access to natural light and space to prepare food. The charity found that 43 percent of homes in Britain don't live up to this standard, and 73 percent of them are in London.

The proposal for the smaller new minimum room size comes from housing minister Gavin Barwell, who earlier this month told the Conservative party conference that, to make sure young people can afford houses, developers should build rooms that are smaller than the current standard, which will help the housing crisis in an "innovative" way. "Now look: most people, given the choice, would like to live in a nice big home. But I think for many young people – if I was 22 today, I would rather have the chance to own than be priced out," the Independent quoted him as saying.

So instead of actually pushing for decent sized rooms, his solution is to lower the current recommended standard room size and enforce it. Given Britain already builds the smallest houses in Europe, and most young people wouldn't even be able to afford a hamster cage in London, it kind of feels like this will make absolutely no difference.

Also, these new rules would only be relevant for homes in multiple occupation, or "shared homes with five or more people from two or more households". So your "cosy" two-bedroom flat that has a living room/kitchen/bathroom for a bedroom and a shed for a second bedroom won't be changing any time soon.

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Biju Belinky
minimum room size
Gavin Barwell