New crackdown on bad landlords
Effort to improve the rented home sector will not include Selective Licencing plans touted last year.
Telford & Wrekin Council is due to get tougher on rogue landlords and letting agents who provide substandard accommodation for their tenants.
Also expected to intensify is the battle against littering, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour as the Council’s Cabinet is recommended to approve a new ‘Better Homes for All’ package including, support and enforcement of environmental improvements to help tackle rogue landlords and improve private rented housing.
These new measures replace a proposed ‘Selective Licensing’ scheme that the Council widely consulted on last year. Most people agreed there were issues that need addressing but Selective Licensing was not the best way to do this and other alternatives were suggested. The Council has listened.
Following this, a new Better Homes For All package to improve private rented housing has now been drawn up which Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet is recommended to approve when it meets on Thursday 15 February.
Better Homes for All includes:
-A new Rogue Landlord Taskforce.
Additional officers are proposed for the Council’s Housing team to work solely on privately rented housing standards across the borough. Their role would be to hold all landlords and letting agents to account and ensure they provide good conditions for tenants.
-Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO).
From October, new Government legislation is due to take effect on HMOs. In advance of any Government changes, it is proposed that Telford & Wrekin Council will implement an enhanced set of licensing conditions for mandatory HMOs all of which were consulted upon as part of the selective licensing proposals. These new conditions would give the Council a greater ability to tackle poorly managed HMOs in our borough. The new HMO licensing conditions and fee structure would be implemented and enforced by the Council’s new Rogue Landlord Taskforce.
-New Housing Enforcement Policy.
This new policy outlines how Telford & Wrekin Council intends to use its enforcement powers to tackle rogue landlords and poor housing conditions. This would include improvement notices, penalty charge notices and civil penalties.
Since July 2017, Telford & Wrekin Council’s enforcement officers have been focussed on using additional powers in investigating environmental crime resulting in the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices or, in more serious cases, prosecution. Working with West Mercia Police and using information from the Council enforcement officers will target specific areas with the highest levels of environmental crime reports to engage and educate in the first instance and, where applicable, enforce. Since last July, more than 70 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued.
Environmental Cleaning Team to work across the borough, keeping it clean and looking tidy, tackling problem areas clearing litter and fly-tipping supported by enforcement officers who investigate and deal with the causes of environmental crime. The Council will invest in this team through its ‘Pride in Our Community Fund’ to increase capacity.
-New Landlord Accreditation Scheme.
It is proposed that this new enhanced voluntary scheme is delivered with external agencies to offer promotion, advice, training and development for landlords and letting agents who, by signing up, agree to a revised code of conduct. This will include the appointment of a new Landlord Liaison Officer to develop a scheme and work closer with landlords.
In total the Council will be investing over £300,000 in extra resource and activity to ensure that these policies work. Progress of the work will be reviewed and reported every 12 months.
Cllr Lee Carter, Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Commercial Services & Economic Development said: “We have listened, we have engaged.
“During our consultation people told us there are issues and problems to address and wanted us to make better use of the powers we have to deal with rogue landlords, litter, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. We are already doing this through the increased powers given to our enforcement officers last year to investigate environmental crime, issue fixed penalty notices and prosecute. As a result we are already seeing a major increase in penalties for these types of offences.
“People also told us that they wanted better private rented housing conditions. We propose an increase in environmental health officers, a new housing enforcement policy and an improved voluntary landlord accreditation scheme.
“We have pored over all the feedback from the public and we’ve listened. We now have a package of measures designed to give us some real extra muscle to tackle rogue landlords and letting agents. At the same time, we want to support the good landlords and, in doing so, together improve housing standards for tenants.
“We will closely monitor the effectiveness of this new package over the next two years. If there are no improvements, we may be forced to revisit the option of a Selective Licensing scheme; however there are also other factors that we may need to keep an eye on including a fast changing national picture.”