- Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods and Adult Services to report.
Councillor McNeely, Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods, introduced a report by the Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods and Adult Services, containing proposals for new strategic interventions designed to improve private rented sector accommodation standards, address low housing demand, high levels of anti-social behaviour and the crosscutting issues within the Authority’s most deprived neighbourhoods by ensuring landlords either met minimum management standards or were not allowed to let their property.
The interventions proposed included:-
- Selective Licensing
To help address low demand and high levels of anti-social behaviour by ensuring landlords either met minimum management standards or were not allowed to let their property. A licence fee paid by landlords would enable the Council to increase the resources employed and dedicated to meet the aims of the local scheme.
- Enforced Sales Procedure
This gave the Council an additional tool to tackle long term empty properties where the owner could not be traced or the owner was not working with the Council to bring the property back into use. This tool was considered the last resort and only used when a range of measures had been undertaken and failed to address the issue.
- Empty Dwelling Management Orders
A tool to tackle long term empty properties that were problematic whilst ensuring the Council had some control over the future of the properties for a prescribed period.
- Interim Management Orders
An IMO transferred the management of a residential property to the Council for a period of up to 12 months. It allowed:-
· Possession of the house against the immediate landlord and subject to existing rights to occupy.
· To do anything in relation to the house which could have been done by the landlord including repairs, collecting rents etc.
· To spend monies received through rents and other charges for carrying out its responsibility of management including the administration of the house.
· To create new tenants (with the consent of the landlord).
- Compulsory Purchase Orders
This tool was used as a last resort where a range of measures needed to have been taken to address the issues first. It could be used to acquire a single property or more usually multiple properties. However, the process was lengthy, resource intensive and not always successful.
The interventions did not replace existing enforcement resources but added further capacity to enable a much more intensive approach to be adopted in areas where the Authority had struggled to improve private sector housing conditions.
Both Revenue and Capital funding would be required to support the introduction and operation of the above tools.
If the above measures were not taken, the gap in the Authority’s most deprived neighbourhoods would continue to widen. The current level of resources deployed reactively to resolve private rented sector issues was not sustainable and empty properties blighted neighbourhoods negatively affecting the local housing market. The redeployment of staff required to work up the business case for Select Licensing could have Service implications by temporarily reducing Service performance in those teams which were operating with reduced staff resources, however, this would be mitigated by effective management to assist with prioritising work and sharing responsibility for work.
Cabinet Members noted that some of the interventions proposed to improve private rented sector accommodation standards had previously been raised as part of a Scrutiny Review and subsequent recommendations, the majority of which had been accepted by the Cabinet.
Resolved:- (1) That the range of new interventions, identified as Enforced Sales, Empty Dwelling Management Orders, Interim Management Orders and low level enforcement options, to help improve standards in the Private rented sector be approved.
(2) That the use of powers relating to Enforced Sales, as detailed in Appendix 3 of the report submitted, be approved.
(3) That a report be submitted to a future meeting to consider the business case for setting up a Selective Licensing Scheme.
(4) That non-fee generating work be undertaken by the Resources Directorate to assist with legal, consultation and other enabling work to develop the new strategic interventions identified in the report.
(5) That a Capital budget of £80,000 be identified to enable property improvements to be carried out as part of the use of approved tools.
(6) That Scrutiny be thanked for the work that had been undertaken as part of the Scrutiny Review and the subsequent recommendations, the majority of which had been accepted as part of these interventions.