§ Sir George Young
The Government are aware of the continuing concern about the number of hotels in resort areas which are operating as benefit hostels and of the wider concern about safety standards in all houses in multiple occupation—HMOs.
Ministers share these concerns, but they are also anxious to avoid regulation unless it can be clearly demonstrated that such regulation is both essential and practical.
Local authorities already have considerable powers to improve standards in HMOs, and to establish HMO registration schemes. They also have a statutory duty to ensure adequate fire safety standards in the larger HMOs. The issue of benefit hostels raises separate considerations and planning controls relating to the conversion from hotel to hostel use have recently been tightened.
It is clearly necessary to consider carefully what more, if anything, needs to be done in both these areas. I have therefore instructed my officials in the Department of the Environment to begin immediate discussions with interested parties, on the case for a licensing system and how it might operate, with a view to issuing a formal consultation paper in the late summer. Full-scale licensing would require primary legislation and the paper will need to examine the scope for measures to tackle these problems both with or without legislation.