§ Mr. Batiste
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when the second report of his Department's research into houses in multiple occupation will be published; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
The report is being published today. Copies have been placed in the Library and are being sent to local authorities and others concerned. We shall be consulting them on various detailed matters arising from the report.
The report indicates that houses in multiple occupation do a useful job in many towns and cities. They provide relatively cheap furnished accommodation and a lack of restriction which is popular with some tenants. But standards in the sample of 550 HMOs surveyed for our research were often very low. Some needed major repairs, others lacked amenities. Many needed improvements in their fire escape arrangements.
Local authorities already have duties and extensive powers to take action to improve standards in appropriate cases. But the research suggests that practice is patchy. We have already issued advice to local authorities on their powers following the consolidation of the Housing Acts. We now propose to back this up with further advice and assistance. We shall be recruiting an environmental health officer to advise the Department and to help prepare and publicise examples of good practice. We are asking authorities to include HMOs in the priority categories where grants should be concentrated. We also plan to issue leaflets for HMO landlords and residents to improve their knowledge of their respective rights and of the availability of grant.