Raising Rented Housing Standards in the East Midlands

Landlord ‘Buy-to-Let’ awards 2009: Public Service Winner


News Archive : 2009

The SLA and CLG Conference

On 31st July the Minister for Housing the Rt. Hon. John Healey MP launched a consultation on new draft statutory guidance on social housing allocations ('Fair and flexible' available here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/allocationguideconsultation), to strengthen the freedoms councils have to prioritise needs specific to their local area. This could include:

The new draft guidance also makes clear the need for councils to tackle the myths and misunderstandings surrounding allocations, by doing more to inform their communities about who is getting housing, and to consult tenants and residents when setting their local priorities, so that they are better understood and have greater legitimacy among residents.

Following this consultation period the Government will publish statutory guidance in November. Local authorities will be expected to review and revise their allocations policies in response to the new guidance, and to involve local people in this process. To support them in doing so, best practice guidance will also be published alongside the final guidance. The way that authorities respond to the new guidance will then be assessed by the Audit Commission through their agreed programmes of monitoring and inspection, and will be reflected in Comprehensive Area Assessment.

The East Midlands will be holding a workshop to provide local authorities and other interested organisations with the opportunity to hear directly from Communities and Local Government about the purpose and content of the new guidance and to input into the consultation at an early stage. It will also provide an opportunity for advice and discussion around best practice in the use of flexibilities in allocation policies and in local engagement on allocations, which should help local authorities to review and revise their allocations policies in response to the final guidance when this issued in November 2010.

Presentations on the day were from:

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DASH 17th Conference

The conference was themed around Regulation after Rugg and was an opportunity for PRS managers in the East Midlands to consider the implications of the Rugg review and the possible changes it may bring about. The aim of the conference was to consider the proposals and trends in enforcement and to prepare regulators for coming changes.

Delegates from across the country and from a wide range of backgrounds enjoyed presentations given by representatives from industry professionals. The days presentations are listed below for your information:

Delegates gained an insight into some of the key issues in the region and had the opportunity to network with colleagues from across the East Midlands region.

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DASH 16th Conference

The DASH 16th Conference formed part of the Governments consultation process. The opportunity was taken to have a thorough consultation and discussion with Local Authorities of the main proposals in the Rugg review which effect regulation of the Private Rented Sector.

The discussion document covered the following main points:

On behalf of the East Midlands region, Tom Toumazou the DASH project Manager collated a reponse to the Government proposals. 52 housing professional input into the consultation day.

“The existing regulatory framework does not offer sufficient sanction where landlords openly contravene regulations.”

It was implied that there is an inadequate statutory framework with which to regulate the PRS. Practitioners are generally not of the opinion that more powers to regulate are necessary but more resources are required at local levels to ensure adequate inspection and enforcement activity to enable the worst landlords to be effectively targeted.

Many LHAs are developing various ways of engaging with the PRS including accreditation and landlord fora, which enable a form of self regulation, although most authorities with such activities are only still integrating such schemes into their strategies. However they do allow for some form of elementary risk assessment to be made and freeing resources for enforcement officers to target their worst landlords. The impact of such activity is, at present negligible but does have the potential to develop into a properly functioning means of risk assessment and self regulation and more effort and time are required to allow for this.

The system that the review proposes appears to be more of registration, whereby landlords are required to declare their properties to the Local Authority. There is support for such a scheme by enforcement practitioners as it will greatly assist in their strategic and regulatory functions. A small cost of administration can be charged to cover the cost of the scheme. As various powers are available to ensure basic legal standards are adhered to the ultimate sanction of removal from registration should only be available in extreme cases as an ultimate sanction for a person obviously not a fit and proper person to be a landlord.

The declaration of properties to accreditation scheme operators is the most significant factor preventing landlords from joining a scheme. The requirement for all landlords to declare their properties will greatly assist in the recruitment of landlords to accreditation schemes.

There is concern that any proposed “light touch licensing” will become the, as yet, ineffectual administrative process that HMO licensing is. There is an overwhelming consensus of opinion amongst practitioners that rather no licensing was introduced rather than a similar system to HMO licensing.

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Publication of the Rugg Review


October 2008 saw the publication of the long awaited Rugg Review. The report entitled "the Private Rented Sector: its contribution and potential" by Dr Julie Rugg and David Rhodes contains a wealth of information about the size, structure and characteristics of the private rented sector (PRS).

Here is a short summary:

The Nature of the PRS: It's not a single entity, it’s complex and diverse and ranges from upmarket corporate lets to temporary accommodation for asylum seekers.

Significant niches include: students, young professionals, corporate lets, middle aged, middle market renters, housing benefit tenants, slum rentals and asylum seekers.

The Size of the PRS: Private rented housing contains almost 12 per cent of all households and 11 per cent of housing stock. The sector made up only nine per cent of households in 1988. Close to 2.5 million homes in England are currently rented from over 500,000 private landlords.

The sector has expanded rapidly in recent years due to Buy To Let. The sector grew from five per cent to 17 per cent of the UK mortgage market between 2002 and 2007.

The proportion of under-30 households renting has grown to 43 per cent compared with 33 per cent in 2001.

Regulation: Rugg favours introducing a "light touch licensing system for landlords and mandatory regulation for letting agencies, to increase protection for both vulnerable tenants and good landlords".

Landlords would pay an annual licence fee, the proceeds of which would be used to set up a complaints and redress system.

Bad Landlords: Bad landlords will have their licences revoked and will be excluded from the sector if they do not meet statutory requirements on housing management and quality.

Incentives: Rugg proposes tax changes to encourage good landlords, including changes to stamp duty to encourage them to buy more properties.

Build To Let: Rugg is not convinced about the need to change planning laws to encourage institutional investment via build to let, pointing out that it will create rental 'silos' and will make the market more inflexible.

She also worries that large scale institutional investors would be selective in the tenants they accept and may exclude poorer tenants.

Longer Tenancies: Rugg also wonders whether departing from the six-month AST is wise. She concludes that the existing "tenancy framework appears, for the most part, adequate for purpose".

The report calls for a more business-like approach within the sector from landlords, letting agents and managing agents. Part of this will be done through the education of landlords and encouraging them to operate with good business planning.

To grow the sector, Rugg argues that this is not simply a case of encouraging the development of institutional investment but allowing all successful landlords the ability to grow, regardless of their size. Hopefully, the range of measures will help boost the image of the private rented sector and encourage it to grow.

Overall, the report recognises the positive role the vast majority of private landlords play and calls for more support for landlords, compulsory light-touch licensing, tougher enforcement against rogue landlords and strong mandatory licensing for letting agents.

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Blaby Annual Landlord Forum ~ Westfield House Hotel, 5 March 2009

Blaby District Council would like to invite all landlords, agents and workers with an interest in housing issues to their annual Landlord Forum on 5 March 2009.

The event is Free of Charge and will have a number of seminars from housing professionals on forthcoming changes in the private sector housing field.

The Landlords forum will also give Landlords & Letting Agents an opportunity to raise any concerns they may have regarding the Housing Act 2004 or other issues that affect them with representatives from Housing Benefit Team & Private Sector Team, Rent Service, National Landlords Association, Association of Residential Letting Agents, DASH (Decent & Safe Homes).

Entrance is free and refreshments will be provided. To register your interest in attending this event email Vijay Jethwa on vj@blaby.gov.uk stating which session you would like to attend.

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DASH 15th Local Authority Conference ~ Enforcement

31 March 2009, Burleigh Court, Loughborough

Burleigh Court Hotel, Loughborough was the venue for the 15th DASH Local Authority conference on 31st March 2009. The aim of the conference was to provide a rounded overview of enforcement procedures not only within local authority housing standards teams, but also the legislation and best practice utilised by other organisations such as the Border Agency and Trading Standards. A further aim of this conference was to encourage relationships between these often disparate organisations and to promote the concept of partnership working.

The conference was attended by over 50 delegates from East Midlands local authorities and showcased speakers from across the country. A brief overview of each of the subjects covered can be found below:

HMO Enforcement - A discussion session led by Keith Rose from Nottingham City Council, centring on local authority progress with the issues surrounding the administration and enforcement of HMO Licensing. This session identified best practice as well as providing delegates with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with procedures adopted by other local authorities beyond the East Midlands region.

Emergency Remedial Action (ERA) [735kb] - Russell Lee from East Riding Council gave an informative presentation centring on case studies where ERA powers had been utilised. This presentation gave delegates the opportunity to see the process in full and gave examples of issues to consider when contemplating ERA.

Statutory Enforcement - Dan Donovan from Manchester gave a detailed and informative overview of statutory enforcement powers, highlighting best practice and case studies.

Cannabis Farms [7.56mb] - Nottinghamshire Police gave a presentation on preventing illegal drugs in rented properties, giving local authority officers information on the prevalence of cannabis farms within the region, issues to be aware of and the potential signs that a property may be being used for drug related purposes.

The Border Agency [1.03mb] - Phil Dyer from the East Midlands Local Immigration Team (LIT) explained the role LIT's play within the community, and how local authority officers can work with them to identify possible local issues and work together to reduce crime.

Leicester Trading Standards Service [104kb] concluded the day’s presentations with an overview of the legislation affecting the rental sector, concentrating on the new Energy Performance Certificates and how Trading Standards enforce the legislation. The presentation also covered examples of unfair terms in tenancy agreements and the possible pitfalls of the "buy and rent back" sector and provided links to further information.

Once again, the conference was hailed as a success by delegates and was attended by a capacity audience.

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Nottingham City Council Landlord Forum ~ 6 May

This year's landlord conference is being held on Wednesday 6th May 2009 at the Council House, Nottingham.

This will be the ninth conference hosted by Nottingham City Council and designed to improve links between local authorities and private sector landlords. There will be a number of representatives present, including those from Nottingham City Council, other local authorities, landlords from the East Midlands, and a number of trade and professional exhibitors.

If you would like to attend, please contact Nottingham City Council HMO team on 0115 9156798 or email public.health@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

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Governement Response to the Rugg Review

The Government's response to the Rugg Review was published on 13 May 2009 and sets out their proposals for the reform of the private-rented sector in England.

The 35 page document presents proposals for changes to the way the Private Rented Sector is governed, primarily suggesting that it will introduce both licensing for all private landlords and regulation of all letting agents.

The publication of the Government's response marks the start of a consultation period for these proposals which will hopefully give rise to a wide-ranging debate about what changes are actually needed to improve and grow the sector.

The closing date for consultation responses in the is 7th August 2009. If you would like your views on the Rugg Review to be included in the East Midlands regional response, then forward your comments to dash@derby.gov.uk.

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