Fire hazards, faulty boilers and falling ceilings are just a few of the issues faced by Nottingham’s private rented tenants at the hands of bad landlords.
A report by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) 2016 estimated that 21% of Nottingham’s private rented properties are likely to have ‘Category 1’ hazards including exposed wiring, dangerous boilers, cold bedrooms, leaking roofs, mould or vermin infestation. Last year, the City Council carried out 280 enforcement actions in the form of legal notices against landlords due to poor conditions.
That’s why Nottingham City Council has introduced a new Selective Licensing scheme whereby landlords who receive rent on a private property in certain parts of the city will need a licence to show their property meets safety and quality standards set out in the conditions of the licence.
The scheme, covering an estimated 32,000 privately rented homes, aims to raise standards across the private rented sector and provide a clear set of guidelines, which all landlords will need to achieve and follow.
Bad landlords can often:
- fail to carry out essential maintenance
- harass tenants or evict them unfairly
- ignore legal requirements to protect tenants’ deposits and unfairly withhold deposits at the end of tenancy
- add exorbitant fees to tenants’ accounts
- fail to make improvements when asked to
The Selective Licensing scheme should help prevent bad landlords cutting corners or undercutting good landlords and help educate those landlords who are not managing their properties effectively or providing good quality accommodation.
Steve Matthews, Principal Environmental Health Officer in the City Council’s Safer Housing Team, has shared some of the common situations he has come across:
He said: “I’ve been in this job for 20 years and the most common thing we see is issues around fire safety. Not only do we see properties with no smoke detectors, but also with poor means of escape or a lack of doors.
“Kitchens are also commonly problematic and often not maintained between tenancies. In a recent case tenants who were desperate for housing moved into a property where the kitchen had been completely ripped out with the promise from the landlord that a new kitchen would shortly be fitted – it never was. There were no food storage facilities or cooking facilities and the ceiling had come down. It was a treacherous situation which we quickly got the tenants out of by issuing an emergency prohibition order.
“I’ve also seen a lot of properties with no hot water or heating. This can be because of failure to maintain equipment but also refusing to do anything when equipment is faulty.
“These issues, as well as numerous other ones I have come across, not only put the tenants at risk but also the property and the neighbours.”
The impacts of housing on health are well documented, with children and adults living in bad housing more likely to suffer from poorer health, low mental wellbeing and respiratory problems.
Abigail Pinder works as a Housing Caseworker in the Safer Housing Team, focusing on illegal evictions, exploitative rent and harassment.
She said: “Families in bad housing may become withdrawn from their communities as well as experience a range of psychological problems. We take it for granted when we’re in good housing how much of a positive effect this can have on us and our ability to go out to work and socialise.”
Nottingham City Council recognises that the vast majority of landlords look after their tenants and their properties. The scheme is aimed at benefitting those good landlords who may struggle to get the rent they want because of the poor conditions of nearby properties. It should also get rogue landlords to change their behaviour, or get out of the market altogether.
Councillor Jane Urquhart, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing & Heritage, said: “People in Nottingham have a right to expect a decent and safe standard of private rented accommodation, which is well managed and maintained.
“Nottingham’s private rented tenants will now be clear on what is expected of their landlord in terms of property management and standards. Rogue landlords will be investigated and action taken.
“By providing a clear set of guidelines, which all landlords need to meet, the scheme will help prevent bad landlords cut corners or ‘undercut’ good ones, creating a level playing field for all.
“This is good news for good landlords who are operating legitimately and complying with the law, as Nottingham’s reputation for providing quality housing increases.”
Anyone receiving rent on a private property in Nottingham should check if their property requires a licence and apply without delay. The licence fee costs landlords £480 if they have Nottingham Standard accreditation and £780 if they haven’t got accreditation. This payment is made up of two parts; approximately two thirds is required at application and one third when the licence is issued. Each licence can last up to five years.
Income from the licence fees goes towards the cost of setting up, operating and delivering the scheme. The City Council is not permitted to make a profit from the scheme.
Other business that require licences include:
- Private hire vehicle operator – £1350 + £21 per vehicle for an initial five year licence
- Pet shop – £119 per year (=£595 over five years)
- Massage establishment – £488 per year (=£2440 over five years)
- Premises for the primary purpose of supplying alcohol (band D) – £900 initial fee then annual fee of £320 (=£2180 over five years)
- Bingo hall – £3500 then annual fee of £1000 (=£7500 over five years)
Considering the impact of housing on health and wellbeing, the council deems it necessary for landlords to have a licence to continue to legally operate their business.
Councillor Urquhart added: “We believe that the licence fee should not lead to landlords increasing rent but recognise that some landlords may choose to do this. The council has worked hard to offer lower fees to accredited landlords, with savings of £300 on the licence applications fee. If landlords do increase rents, this should be following the correct legal procedures and should not exploit this opportunity.”
Selective Licensing came into force on 1 August 2018. It is a legal requirement for landlords to apply for a licence. Failure to do so can lead to financial penalties of up to £30,000 or prosecution through the courts.
We want to continue working with landlords to ensure as many properties are licenced as possible. Landlords who haven’t applied yet need to engage with the council as soon as possible and apply.
If tenants have any concerns about their landlords, they can contact us via nottinghamcity.gov.uk.
 The Impact of Bad Housing, Shelter http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_/why_we_campaign/housing_facts_and_figures/subsection?section=the_impact_of_bad_housing