Agenda item

Draft Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy


The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) introduced the report which recommended the approval and adoption of the Council’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy. The Council has legal duties to ensure that accommodation in the private rented sector meets minimum housing management, health and safety standards and to deal with landlords and letting agents that fail to meet those standards. Financial penalties have been introduced by the Housing & Planning Act 2016 as an alternative to prosecution to meet the Government's aim of clamping down on 'rogue' landlords and letting agents and reduce offending. The table of financial penalties was set out in Appendix 1 of the report and had been constructed to be broadly similar to other local housing authorities across Kent.

The following points were made during discussion on this item:

·         Members were advised that when the Council was made aware of an issue, officers would contact the landlord to invite them in for a chat in an attempt to resolve the issues. Council officers could also access the property to undertake a survey and a timescale for repairs drawn up. If the property was considered dangerous or unfit for human habitation, the Council had powers to close the property. Officers tried to work with landlords as this tended to benefit the tenants, the landlord and the Council. The Council could also undertake necessary repairs and put a charge against the property to recoup the money.

·         The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) advised that retaliatory evictions were not permitted and were covered by sanctions. If a landlord evicted a tenant because the tenant had raised concerns with the Council, then the Council could prevent the landlord from reletting the property. Members’ attention was drawn to paragraph 12 of the Draft Private Section Housing Enforcement Policy.

·         It was noted that Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and non- HMOs were covered by this Policy.

·         Following a question of informing tenants of support available to them, Members were asked to refer tenants who raised issues, to the Council and to signpost tenants to information on the Council’s website. The Council also occasionally held promotional events including bi-annual Private Sector Landlord forums. Officers also received referrals and intelligence from Citizens Advice, the Council’s Environmental Services, the Police and Fire services and other agencies including Customs & Excise. However, it was the most vulnerable tenants who were most at risk as they were aware that their accommodation was probably the only one they could afford. The Chair requested that Councillors pass any information they happened to come across to the appropriate officer.

·         The effect of this policy on the staff resources of the Housing Policy team was raised. The Assistant Director (Housing Policy & Management) confirmed that the policy had been considered by the Council’s Management Team and the additional pressure on staff resources had been identified by the Chief Executive.

Resolved that:

1.    That the Council’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement policy be approved and recommended to Cabinet for adoption; and

2.    That the Council’s Policy for imposing financial penalties under the Housing Act 2004 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016 at Appendix 1 of the report is approved and recommended to Cabinet for adoption.

Supporting documents: