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News Archive : July - Dec 2008




National Fire Safety Guidance

New national guidance for landlords, managing agents, tenants and enforcers aimed at cutting the 300,000 fires in residential properties, was released on 23 July 2008.

The guidance, Housing - Fire Safety, was developed by LACoRS, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH). The guidance provides advice on how to keep residential buildings safe from fire, explains how to carry out a fire risk assessment and includes a range of case studies.

The guidance applies to existing residential accommodation including single family houses, bedsits, shared houses and flats. It does not apply to new housing that is built to modern building regulations. Landlords who follow this guidance will be well placed to satisfy requirements set out under fire safety legislation.

The guidance also assists councils and fire and rescue authorities who enforce fire safety legislation in residential accommodation. It will help them to adopt a more consistent risk-based approach. The new guidance will superceed the guidance written for the East Midlands by DASH - The Fire Safety Guide for HMO's and Other Dwellings. This document is now being updated by Malcolm Hoare of CS Todd & Associates to reflect the new guidance from LACoRS. Once completed DASH will be offereing two 1-day refresher training courses in November for housing officers in the East Midlands.

Use this link to the Housing - Fire Safety document to view the guidance. Hard copies of the guidance are available to purchase for £20 a copy with free postage and packing. Landlords who wish to purchase copies should visit the LACoRS website or call 020 7665 3887.

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Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a new way of working out claims for Housing Benefit for tenants living in private rented accommodation, including tenants already getting housing benefit who move into accommodation rented from a private landlord.

LHA is being introduced on 7 April 2008 and introduces some significant changes into how housing benefit is worked out.

What are the changes?

LHA is a new way of assessing Housing Benefit for private tenants, where the allowance will be based on the size of the claimant's household and rent levels for the area in which a person lives.

The amount of LHA for each household size will be set independently by BRMA. Each local authority will be divided into Broad Rental Market Areas (BRMA). Rent Officers will set individual LHA rates for each BRMA. These will be published by the local authority so that landlords and prospective LHA customers can be clear about the amount of rent that LHA will cover.

The other big change being introduced as part of LHA is that in the majority of cases benefit will be paid to the tenant rather than the landlord. This will be done by BACS, so tenants can then pay their rent to landlords by direct debit or standing order.

Rent will only be paid direct to the landlord if:

Who is affected by the new rules?

The LHA rules affect all new private tenant claims made on or after 7 April 2008. Existing claims will not be affected. However they will be affected after April 2008 if the customer changes address or there is a break in their claim.

Who is not affected by the new rules?

The LHA does not affect:

These changes will apply to only new claimants who claim on or after 7 April 2008. Existing tenants or those who claim before this date will not be affected by these changes unless they have a break in their claim, or change address.

For more information on Local Housing Allowance visit the Department for Work and Pensions website.

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Energy Performance Certificate

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) provides a rating for the energy performance of a building. The ratings are standard so the energy efficiency of one building can easily be compared with another building of a similar type. The certificate will be valid for 10 years and the government has given a guideline cost of £100. However the market will decide the actual costs, and so costs could be higher.

The EPC contains two ratings for homes:

energy performance certificate

The EPC will have to be made available to prospective tenants when a viewing is conducted, or before entering into a contract to let.

The EPC does not have to be made available if you believe that the prospective tenant is unlikely to have sufficient funds to rent the property or is not genuinely interested in renting that type of property, or you are unlikely to be prepared to rent out the property to the prospective tenant.

The EPC will be of use to landlords as it will provide a table of recommended measures, based on the inspection, to improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the dwelling. This will also include a list of savings that could be made if the improvements are undertaken.

More information can be found on www.communities.gov.uk
helpline number 0845 3652468
or email: help@epbduk.info

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Keeping Illegal Drugs out of Rented Properties

Nottingham Police are working to develop ways of targetting drug crime and reducing the fear of crime in the community. Home production of cannabis is now replacing the import of drugs as organised gangs find it entails less risk of being caught. As a result the problem of organised crime syndicates taking rented properties for six months to grow cannabis on a large scale is increasing.

Nottinghamshire Police have produced a Guide for property managers, owners and landlords on understanding the signs of drug activity in rented properties. The guide contains information on some of the indicators that may show that synthetic drugs, such as Ecstacty, or crops such as Cannabis may be being made or grown in private rented homes.

If you are a landlord who is concerned or suspicious of the activity in your property, then find out further infomation on how to prevent and report drug activity in Keeping Illegal Drugs out of Rented Properties Guide.

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DASH 14th Local Authority Conference ~ Health & Regulation
1 & 2 July 2008, Nottingham Belfry Hotel

The environment in which you live profoundly affects the quality of life. The people who most need public services are the young and old, who spend a significant amount of time in the home. Poor housing has been linked to increased levels of long term illness, respiratory and infectious diseases, accidents and psychological problems.

It is within this context that the DASH 14th Conference looked at the significance that housing standards can have on the effect on the health of residents and how an evidence based system can be used to plan and prioritise strategies and resources.

Conference Review

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Local Housing Authority Survey: Within the East Midlands staffing resources, particularly for solely enforcement, are very low. Budget allocation to PSH is also low. The level of grant and loans for specific initiatives is a significant level of funding in the private sector. However, is this the most effective way of delivering improvements? Housing contributes significantly to community agendas and objectives across the region and there is a need for political will to set the PRS as a priority.

Housing Enforcement Activity: In the UK each year housing conditions are implicated in 50,000 deaths and around 0.5 million injuries and illnesses requiring medical attention. The English Housing Condition Survey was undertaken to investigate the level of activity and constraints in enforcement and regulatory levels, which affect the improvements in housing condition. See the findings of this study.

Cracking the Code: Changes in the law and how we regulate is fundamental. The Code is derived from reviews and legislation from the government and promotes best practices to reduce unnecessary interventions. This presentation looks at what the Regulators Compliance Code means in the housing context.

Self Regulation Opt in … Opt Out: Could accreditation be used as a step in regulation? The premise of this is that those landlords who choose to apply to an approved accreditation scheme would in effect "Opt out" of the regulatory system. The landlord would be required to meet standards under the accreditation scheme, and in doing so "Opt in" to self regulation. Any breach of the standards would be acted upon through the accreditation scheme disciplinary procedures. Persistent offenders would be removed from the accreditation scheme and referred to Enforcement.

Using Modern Technology to Support Vulnerable People in their Own Home: The BRE have made an assessment of the prevalence and distribution of 5 category 1 hazards and alternative ways of reducing the hazard risks in homes. See their ideas for making steps and stairs safer, falls on the level and between levels, fire risks and hot surfaces.

Evidence Based Enforcement Priorities: The Borough of Islington has completed a Health Impact Assessment of their private sector housing strategy. To understand the process view the stages of the project, the recommendations drawn from the study and how this was built into the decision making process.

Health Impact Assessment is an approach that ensures decision making at all levels considers the potential impacts of decisions on health. It identifies actions that can enhance the positive effects and reduce or eliminate negative effects. HIA is a relatively new tool, with no single agreed national approach or methodology. Whilst this is a developing area, the elements of screening, scoping, appraisal, recommendations, communication and evaluation provide the basis for an overview of this increasingly valued approach.

Evidence Based Healthy Housing Interventions : Housing is a key determinant of health, with standards of maintenance directly affecting the well being of an individual. Information on the links between health and housing is freely available, but there is very little evidence of the effectiveness of intervention. Evidence based practice is used to address the structural causes of ill health. The effect on health of a particular intervention can be measured and used to determine resource needs and effectiveness of any actions.

Housing Investment & Health: The NHS is not the primary influence on health, but one of many. Environmental Health Officers should move towards strategic long term action rather than working reactively on an individual basis. Evidence of health effects of winter deaths, falls and accidents in the home are available which could be incorporated into studies to highlight the impact of removing a hazard on health.

A review of the RPT Decisions and the reasoning behind specific cases highlighted the best practices and improvements which Council's could make in preparation for RPT.

Speakers & Presentations

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Tom Toumazou, DASH Project Manager
Local Housing Authority Survey 2007-08 [5.31mb]

John Bryson, Housing & Regeneration consultant
Housing Enforcement Activity by Local Authorities in England and Wales [1.40mb]

John Marr, Policy Officer, LACoRS
Regulators' Compliance Code [621kb]

Neil Marsden, Consultant RLA
Self Regulation of the PRS [35kb]

Mike Roys, BRE Housing Group
Using Modern Technology to Support Vulnerable People in their Own Homes [2.07mb]

Paul Mishkin, Senior Environmental Health Officer, London Borough of Islington
Evidence Based Enforcement Priorities [55kb]

Tom Toumazou, DASH Project Manager
Health Impact Assessment [4.67mb]

Dr Jill Stewart, University of Greenwich
Evidence Based Healthy Housing Interventions [351kb]

Professor Geoff Green, Sheffield Hallam University
Housing Investment & Health [4.53mb]

Phil Moxon, Housing and Environmental Consultant
RPT Decisions [43kb]

Key Outcomes of the Conference

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