Council Cabinet approves Better Homes for All package
A new package of measures have been approved by Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet to tackle rogue landlords and letting agents.
The Cabinet met last night (Thursday 15 February) to hear details of an alternative solution to its originally proposed ‘Selective Licensing’ scheme widely consulted on last year.
The Council listened to comments agreeing that issues of poor standards in some private rented housing, littering and fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour needed to be addressed, but Selective Licensing was not the best way to do this.
It led to the drawing up of an alternative package “Better Homes For All” which includes:
A new Rogue Landlord Taskforce to target the private rented sector by holding all landlords and letting agents to account and ensuring they provide good conditions for tenants.
An enhanced set of licensing conditions and a new fee structure for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) which will give the Council a greater ability to tackle poorly managed HMOs in our borough.
New Housing Enforcement Policy including improvement notices, penalty charge notices and civil penalties.
Enforcement officers working with West Mercia Police targeting specific areas with the highest levels of environmental crime reports.
Environmental Cleaning Team, funded through ‘Pride in Our Community, to work across the borough, keeping it clean and looking tidy.
New Landlord Accreditation Scheme to offer promotion, advice, training and development for landlords and letting agents who, by signing up, agree to a revised code of conduct.
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.
“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.”
The new package has been widely welcomed.
Simone Whitfield from Telford and Wrekin Landlords Association said: “We look forward to seeing what the new accreditation scheme will bring to landlords and continuing the work with the council on improving the standards in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Tackling the landlords who damage the reputation of the PRS in our region is key and the recommendations for the Rogue Landlord taskforce is very welcome.”
Supt Tom Harding of West Mercia Police said: "We are pleased to see that the concerns we have raised re: the serious harm we have seen in poor quality and poorly managed housing is being addressed. We will work in partnership with the Local Authority on the “Better Homes For All” package and will continue to monitor the associated harm linked to the quality of housing. We hope these plans will have a positive effect on the local community, making Telford a safer place to work and live, by reducing litter, fly tipping and anti-social behaviour that we have linked to poor housing standards in the private rented sector.
“We will work in partnership to monitor the effectiveness of these plans in delivering the highest possible living standards for the residents of Telford and will strive for continuous improvement.
“Whilst local Safer Neighbourhood Teams will continue to provide high visibility reassurance patrols, communities play an important part in tackling crime together and the information we receive from residents allows us to take robust action and enforcement.
"Those who do not dispose of waste material through the proper methods will be dealt with appropriately as fly-tipping of waste is illegal and constitutes a serious offence for which a person can be prosecuted. We would remind residents who see anyone fly tipping to report this to your local council, ensuing you gather any evidence to support such an offence.
"Police will continue to engage with the community so that we can work together to tackle any reports of anti-social behaviour. I urge people to always contact police on 101, or 999 in an emergency, and report any antisocial behaviour to us so that appropriate action can be taken. Each and every report aids us in our investigations and helps us to keep our communities safe from harm."
Guy Williams, Group Manager Prevention and Protection, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The targeting of rogue landlords is an essential element of reducing risk in the community as is challenging those who fly tip and blight our environment.
“We recognise that people living alone are at more risk from fire. The “Better Homes for All” policy identifies how Telford and Wrekin propose to improve the safety of private rental houses. These are often houses with multiple flats and people living alone. The enhanced licensing conditions for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a step forward in ensuring the suitability of landlords and therefore improving the safety of tenants.
“The new Landlord Liaison Officer post will improve communications and understanding amongst landlords and tenants. This is vital work as evictions don’t tend to solve behavioural problems they just move the concern to another location. SFRS recognises that the new landlord accreditation will provide the foundation for future landlord development.
Wayne Gethings of the Wrekin Housing Trust said: “As one of the biggest social landlords in Telford and Wrekin and one regarded as a good landlord, we feel it is important to tackle irresponsible landlords. We fully support Telford & Wrekin Council in its plans to improve private rented housing standards and support the good landlords in the borough.”