Campaign against ‘exempt rental accommodation’ steps up

30 November 2020 | Renting

A Labour MP and a newspaper have joined forces to campaign against so-called ‘exempted rental accommodation’.

One of Birmingham’s MPs – Jack Dromey – is the latest Member of Parliament to raise the issue, which involves HMOs occupied by tenants with special support requirements such as ex-prisoners and rehabilitating addicts.

The housing is short term, usually in HMOs or hostels in residential areas, and is significantly less regulated in property terms than conventional private rented accommodation.

Sometimes the properties are run by the private landlords or lettings agencies, but increasingly it appears the accommodation is leased from the private rental sector and run – on a loose basis in some cases – by council social care or homelessness departments.

Some locations, notably Birmingham, have seen a dramatic increase in leasing by councils; Birmingham city council for example, has increased its spend on this ‘exempt’ rental sector from £13.1m to £25.5m in just three years.

Now MPs – and, in the case of Birmingham, the local Birmingham Mail newspaper – have started to campaign against the proliferation of this kind of rental accommodation.

Dromey is quoted as saying 70 constituents recently complained to him about the effect exempt accommodation was having on neighbourhoods. 

He says: “What is happening is absolutely shameful … Residents have had enough … There are those who are millionaires making lots of money out of dumping on Birmingham. They are dumping more and more and more exempt accommodation and HMOs into some communities, seemingly without anyone able to stop them, and doing very well out of that financially while not offering any support to the vulnerable tenants in those homes. The impact on local communities and on the tenants who live in some of the homes has been devastating. They have had enough and the time for action is now.”

The newspaper – which is supporting the MP’s campaign – says: “The number of registered providers responsible for housing people under the exempt benefits system is also increasing rapidly. There are now 152 separate providers [in Birmingham] providing over 21,000 bed spaces – a massive rise in just two years.

“Extra high rents can be commanded through the benefits system if providers house people entitled to exempt status – typically including ex-prisoners, drug and alcohol addicts and those in recovery, people with mental health issues and mild learning difficulties, rough sleepers, vulnerable care leavers and others with complex backgrounds or chaotic lifestyles.

“Many are in large HMOs with up to 10 or more rooms, others in small homes which usually house families.

“When it works well and tenants are expertly supported, the exempt sector accommodates hard-to-house people who might otherwise be on the streets, while they recover and thrive. But in too many instances the support is minimal, vetting and supervision is lax and the system causes chaos, say experts.”

Dromey is now calling for:

– halting the concentration of HMOs and exempt accommodation in some parts of Birmingham overburdened with them;

– what he calls “strict enforcement and more prosecutions to tackle bad landlords and drive them out of the city”;

– better regulation by government;

– “naming and shaming bad landlords who are ‘ruining communities’ while raking in millions in public money”;

– working closely with good landlords and providers to raise quality standards.

This post has originally been featured in Letting Agent Today.