Nottingham City Council dealt with 2,103 requests for help from people living in private rented housing in the last year – many about serious housing condition issues.
Following the council’s intervention, improvements were carried out at 221 properties, over 3,033 letters and legal notices have been sent to landlords and 61 Formal Written Warnings were issued between April 2020 and March 2021.
The council’s dedicated Safer Housing team, which works to improve housing standards in the city, has been working throughout the pandemic – carrying out physical inspections in some cases, as well as virtual inspections with the use of videos and photos.
Environmental Health Officers have a number of powers at their disposal, including a Caution, Final Written Warning and a Civil Penalty Notice, which is a financial penalty imposed by the council on an individual or organisation as an alternative to prosecution. However, some of the most extreme cases do get taken to court for prosecution.
Over the last year, the team have also carried out the below enforcement action:
- Five properties had emergency works completed to make them safe or where emergency works could not be done the property was shut down
- Eighteen properties were served with Improvement notices asking for works to be done to reduce or remove hazards such as no smoke alarms
- Thirty-one notices were served to deal with nuisance issues or health risks such as lack of hot water
- Emergency measures were taken to deal with one dangerous building
- Eleven notices were served to deal with public health issues such as blocked drains
- Four notices were served to deal with pests or to deal with lots of rubbish that may attract pests
The council continues to use its powers to enforce against landlords who don’t comply with their legal obligations, apply for licences or make sure their properties are up to standard. In the last three years, since January 2018, the council has issued 59 Civil Penalty Notices (CPNs) and 16 cases have gone to court for prosecution. Many of these relate to landlords failing to apply for a Selective, Mandatory or Additional Housing Licence and many include sub-standard housing conditions.
Officers investigate if a property has a Housing Licence to help improve the quality of housing in the city. Under these licences, there are conditions that must be met to make sure a property is up to standard. The team has taken a number of cases to court, which takes months of work and preparation and is only done as a last resort if a landlord does not engage with the team.
Case Study 1 – One of the latest cases to go to court was in January 2021, where a landlord was fined for failing to improve his rental property in Hyson Green and Arboretum ward. He left his tenants in dangerous conditions, including dangerous stairs, structural collapse, excessive cold, damp, mould, fire hazards, issues with food safety and sanitation and drainage.
The team inspect many properties across the city on a daily basis, most landlords will work with the team to fix any issues, but often the council has to take stronger action, especially if there are serious hazards.
Some of the ‘Category 1’ hazards the team has found include fire hazards, such as no smoke alarms, exposed wiring or faulty sockets, filthy and vermin riddled homes, faulty boilers, cold bedrooms, leaking roofs and mould.
Case Study 2 – In one case, the team served an Emergency Prohibition Order (EPO) at a property in Sherwood due to an unsafe spiral staircase, which meant there was no safe means of escape in a fire. The kitchen was also in a poor condition. The EPO prevented anyone from living at the flat until works had been completed, including the replacement of the staircase and separation between the kitchen and the front door to create a safe escape route.
During the pandemic an Environmental Health Officer has been working with the property owner to complete the works and has visited the property a number of times to provide advice and ensure the team is satisfied with the work. * Before and after photos below
After certain successful prosecutions, the council can apply for Rent Repayment Orders. This is to get back Housing Benefits payments that were made to landlords renting out properties without a licence. In November 2020, a landlord was ordered to pay back £8,592.98 in benefits they weren’t entitled to. In January of this year, another landlord was ordered to pay £5,644.98 for the same offence.
Cllr Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, said: “We know that most landlords in the city are decent landlords and want to rent out properties at a good standard. However, there are still properties that lag behind and have serious safety issues that need to be addressed.
“The council’s housing licensing schemes are there to help maintain or improve property standards, and as the action we’ve taken throughout the pandemic shows, we are helping to do just that. We will take action against those landlords who do not improve their homes or fail to work with us to make sure their property is licensed.
“Every tenant deserves to live in a clean and safe home and leaseholders shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the costs of basic safety works. We will continue to work with landlords to help them physically improve their properties, but also to make them more aware of their legal obligations as landlords and ensure they comply with certain licence conditions.”
The council’s Safer Housing team also offers advice and support to landlords who may be struggling. The team can point them in the right direction to get support or information, but they can also help with disruptive tenants, those causing anti-social behaviour or doing illegal activity in their property. Landlords who have a housing licence will benefit from this advice and support.
Landlords who need support can contact the team here https://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/privaterented or call 0115 915 2020 option 3.
Any tenants experiencing issues with their property or landlord can report them here: www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/reporthousing or by contacting the Customer Hub on 0115 915 2020 option 3.