A MAJOR NEW SCHEME aimed at cracking down on rogue landlords is set to get the go-ahead tonight (Monday June 30th) at the first Croydon council cabinet meeting since the recent elections.
A shock report to the cabinet says:
- there is growing concern that poorly managed private rented housing is having a negative effect on Croydon’s neighbourhoods and communities;
- ASB, noise nuisance, fly tipping and other environmental nuisance are being linked to the failure of private landlords to manage properties in an effective way;
- The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has recently recognised Croydon as experiencing particular problems with rogue landlords – with the illegal use of outbuildings as residential accommodation seeing Croydon being given funding to combat rogue landlords;
- many tenants do not approach the council for assistance due to fear of reprisals from their landlord.
The cabinet will be discussing plans to introduce a borough-wide ‘selective licensing scheme’ covering private rented properties across the borough of Croydon.
If, as expected, the scheme gets the go-ahead consultation would follow with tenants, landlords, residents and businesses that would be affected by the introduction of selective licensing.
A report to the cabinet says introducing selective licensing – alongside existing mandatory and discretionary licencing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) – would mean all privately rented accommodation would be required to be licenced for a period of up to five years.
A motion before the cabinet authorises the council’s executive director DASHH (Department of Adult Services, Health and Housing) to commence the statutory consultation on the proposal to introduce a selective licensing scheme in Croydon – with a report of those consultations going back to cabinet in late 2014 or early 2015.
The report to the cabinet says its purpose is to present evidence of crime, anti-social behaviour (ASB) and environmental nuisance linked to the private rented sector (PRS) in Croydon as well as setting out the process for the introduction of the selective licensing scheme.
“Selective licensing provides the council with additional powers to require private landlords to meet certain standards concerning the condition and safety of their property; their responsibilities towards their tenants; and to take action in relation to nuisance and anti-social behaviour (ASB) caused by their tenants.
“Selective licensing is a powerful tool which allows the council to drive up standards in private rented housing and improve outcomes for private tenants, residents and businesses of the borough
– Safer and better quality housing conditions for tenants
– Improved health outcomes for private tenants and their families
– Better informed and responsible tenants
– More desirable housing areas and improved neighbourhoods
– Lower turnover of occupiers producing more stable communities
– Improved resident satisfaction
– More effective and co-ordinated enforcement work in tackling nuisance and ASB
– Better fraud detection
– Improved housing benefit and council tax recovery
“It gives the council better knowledge of the condition of private sector property including the ability to identify landlords who are failing to live up to their responsibilities and to quickly take robust enforcement action.
“It also allows the council to conduct an on-going dialogue with landlords to further drive improvement and head off future problems through:
– Targeting information and advice concerning their responsibilities
– Signposting landlords to existing resources dealing with landlord and tenant issues
– Providing training in providing a good landlord practice, maintenance, safety and dealing with disputes, nuisance and ASB
– Targeting information about other council services including adaptations, energy efficiency etc.
– Targeting information about the council’s offers to landlords willing to offer their properties as temporary accommodation for homeless households.”
The report says Croydon is a borough with good connections to central London, Gatwick Airport and the South coast, cheaper rents than inner London and there is fierce competition for houses and flats to rent.
“Demand for private rented housing has been driven by population growth, the borough’s limited social housing stock and the effect of the ‘credit crunch’ on the housing market. “It plays an important role as a flexible tenure for those who need and value it.”
Private rented housing has increased significantly in the borough over the past 20 years and this has an impact on all residents across all tenures, the report adds. The PRS (private rented sector) in Croydon according to the census is home to more than 30,000 households.
It is the second largest tenure and has nearly doubled in size over the last 20 years. It provides 21per cent of all housing in Croydon compared to 17pc nationally and is the only accessible housing option for many households on modest incomes.
“All wards in the borough have seen an increase in the PRS over the past 10 years. “Growth of the PRS has been largely through the activities of ’buy to let’ investors, generally taking on only one or two properties, and these new landlords have replaced owner occupiers in many of the borough’s neighbourhoods.
“The rationale for consulting on the introduction of selective licensing is the growing concern with poorly managed private rented housing that is having a negative effect on Croydon’s neighbourhoods and communities.
“ASB, noise nuisance, fly tipping and other environmental nuisance are issues which have been linked to the failure of private landlords to manage properties in an effective way.
“The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has recently recognised Croydon as experiencing particular problems with rogue landlords and the illegal use of outbuildings as residential accommodation through the award of ‘rogue landlords funding’,.”
The report says the ‘rogue landlords funding’ was applied for and awarded to Croydon “in response to a growing problem with rogue landlords and with people occupying poor quality and unsuitable dwellings.
“The funding has enabled the council and its partners to kick-start a programme of robust engagement with rogue landlords, proactive joint working with key partners in identifying buildings and areas at greatest risk, and to take action to in the areas of the borough with the greatest problems.
“This is a particularly worrying part of a larger problem of illegal planning activities driven by the demand for private rented accommodation.”
The report says Croydon council already takes a co-ordinated approach to tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB), fly-tipping and other environmental nuisance through the Safer Croydon Partnership and through using its statutory enforcement powers – but more needs to be done.
Selective licensing would ensure the council has a comprehensive licensing regime to effectively manage these issues and would make a significant contribution to the ‘Don’t Mess With Croydon’ campaign.
“It will deliver positive outcomes not only in terms of reducing ASB and nuisance, but also in protecting vulnerable tenants and driving up the standards in private rented housing.”
“it is known that many tenants do not approach the council for assistance due to fear of reprisals from their landlord.
“Selective licensing will give the council a “foot in the door” into all privately rented properties, enabling officers to deal with issues on a proactive basis without the tenant making a complaint.”
The process for introducing selective licensing is set out in the Housing Act 2004.
The council must be satisfied there is a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour in the borough, and that some or all of the private sector landlords are failing to take action to combat the problem.
Amongst other issues, it requires the council to consult with the tenants, landlords, businesses and residents likely to be affected by selective licensing before it is brought in.
“This report demonstrates that there is a link between the private rented sector and poor housing conditions, anti-social behaviour and nuisance.
“The council is passionate about tackling these issues and selective licensing will provide the means to do this. “Taking the decision to start consultation is the first stage in the process.”
The report says the council already uses a wide range of powers and approaches with respect to improving the condition of private sector housing in the borough, and for tackling crime, ASB and environmental nuisance.
– The council hosts a regular private landlords forum to inform local landlords of council and national policy, discuss local issues and promote council and other services relevant to landlords.
Although these are well attended only a small percentage of the total number of private landlords
– Croydon is part of the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme. The Council provides a range of offers to landlords and property owners which are an important part of the homelessness strategy including:
Croylease – which is designed for landlords who are prepared to offer their property to the council for five years, that want a guaranteed rental income, a full management service, and do not want the risk of void periods.
The scheme is open to landlords with two or three bedroom houses in Croydon. It has a number of advantages for landlords that are risk averse and want a managed service – the lease is with the council, the landlord does not have to worry about getting tenants references, collecting rent and chasing up non-payment, void periods or managing agents fees.
Private Sector Licensing – the scheme is designed for landlords who want low risk and low hassle but cannot commit their property for a period of five years. The scheme enables the landlord to earn a regular income and to adjust the level of risk depending on the
A preferred providers leases the property for a minimum of one year and then licenses it the council. At the end of this period the lease can be renewed for a further term.
Croybond – the scheme is designed for landlords who are prepared to manage their own property in return for a one-off incentive payment, one-month’s rent in advance, a bond of six weeks and local housing allowance rent levels.
In return the council will nominate a tenant to occupy the property on an assured shorthold tenancy. The property must be in reasonable repair and the landlord must be able to provide gas and electrical safety certificates.
In return the council’s bond covers the same risks as a tenant’s cash deposit, the council offers a speedy housing benefit processing, a support service to assist with tenancy sustainment, free of charge all legal documentation, and a free inventory “check-in and check-out” service.
The council’s housing enforcement team improves the living conditions and safety of vulnerable households through inspection and enforcement action to improve standards.
It also tackles poor housing conditions, inadequate drainage and public health nuisances, including improving rented housing up to the London Rental Standard through inspections, drain surveys and enforcement action.
“PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR IN UPPER NORWOOD HAS DOUBLED SINCE 2001”
The private rented sector in Croydon has increased significantly since 1991 according to census data – from 11pc of the overall housing stock in 1991 to 21pc of the Housing stock in 2011.
There were 17,000 more households living in private rented accommodation in Croydon in 2011 than 20 years earlier.
There has been an average growth in the number of households living in the private rented sector in Croydon of 76pc over the ten years between 2001 and 2011.
Wards such as Bensham Manor, Croham, West Thornton, Fairfield and Coulsdon East have seen increases in private renting of between 40pc and 750pc.
At the higher end of the scale (even with the exemption of New Addington and Fieldway which both had small private rented sectors in 2001 and therefore saw large percentage increases over the period) wards such as Purley, Norbury, Upper Norwood have seen the private rented sector double since 2001.
The average ward increase in the number of households accommodated in private rented accommodation between 2001 and 2011 is 512.
Private Sector Housing Condition
Over the past three years the number of complaints or requests for action received by the council concerning private rented housing standards has more than doubled from 630 in 2010 to 1371 2013/14.
“This is only reported incidents, many tenants do not report issues for fear of reprisals.”
According to Building Research Establishment data 10pc (11,397) of private housing in Croydon is in disrepair, 17pc (20,086) has category 1 hazards under the HHSRS (housing health and safety rating system) and 37pc (42,973) fails the decent home standard.
The consultation process would be the first stage in deciding whether to introduce selective licensing in Croydon. It will bring the costs, benefits and requirements of selective licensing scheme to the attention of landlords, managing agents, tenants, residents and businesses in the borough and seek their views on the proposals.
If, following the outcome of the consultation, the council decides to proceed with introducing selective licensing a communications strategy to further raise awareness, to explain what will be required of landlords and what selective licencing aims to achieve will form an important part of the implementation and on-going administration of the scheme.
A widely publicised campaign raising awareness of the consultation and encouraging participation will be launched via a range of methods including:
– flyers in regular council communications
– flyers and posters sent to local leisure and community centres
– advertisements in the local newspapers throughout the consultation period
– high visibility marketing on Croydon council’s website
– council officers’ attendance at local landlord forums and residents association meetings
Landlords must pay a fee for a licence issued under a selective licensing scheme.
Local authorities can set the level of the fee, which is expected to be set at £1,000 for a five year license period.
The licence fees will be discounted by £300 for landlords who apply for a licence before the designation comes into force (the ‘early bird’ discount) – 80pc of landlords will apply in advance of the designation coming into force.
Properties let through council/ council approved schemes to provide accommodation for homeless households will be given further discounts to reflect cost savings to the council of temporary accommodation.
Current licence fees for an HMO are set at £240 per unit of accommodation for a five year period. On average HMOs contain five units of accommodation making the average HMO licence £1,200 for five years.
The council will review the current HMO licensing fees and increase them to ensure they align with the proposed selective licensing fee and to ensure they fully reflect the costs of
administering and monitoring compliance with the HMO scheme.
Tenancies exempt from selective licensing:
A number of types of tenancy are exempt from selective licensing schemes including:
– Those operated or administered by registered social landlords or local authorities
– houses in multiple occupation subject to mandatory or discretionary licensing under Part 2
– those where a Temporary Exemption Notice (TEN) is in force
– those where a management order is in force under part four of the Housing Act 2004.
Other categories of tenancy or licenses that are exempt from the licensing requirements are specified in the Selective Licensing of Houses (Specified
Exemptions) (England) Order 2006.
A Croydon council press release on the issue says the proposed selective licensing scheme is a key part of the “Don’t Mess with Croydon” campaign to clean up the borough by improving conditions in private rented accommodation.
Those renting out a property without a licence face fines of up to £20,000, while those who fail to comply with licence conditions can be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000.
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “Although Croydon has many responsible landlords, there are some who rent out accommodation that is not fit to live in and fail to manage their properties.
“We have listened to the concerns not only of tenants living in poor quality homes but to the many residents in Croydon who are affected by poorly kept accommodation in their streets.
“This council is determined to improve the quality of homes for all and this scheme will provide a range of benefits and drive up standards in the private rental sector.”
‘BEDS IN SHEDS’ LANDLORD FINED AFTER FIRE HOSPITALISES TWO MEN (June 25 2013)