Housing Act 2004
There are a number of challenges that face the Private Sector Housing team as a result of the profile of the district and obligations placed upon it by Central Government. The main challenge is the number of properties within the private sector that are considered to be in poor repair, non-decent and to have serious hazards. It is the responsibility of the Private Sector Housing team to respond to these issues and facilitate improvements in the sector by use of education, enforcement and where possible, financial assistance. The private sector housing enforcement policy sets out our commitments to this work.
Enforcing the Housing Act 2004
The principle piece of legislation used by the Private Sector Housing team is the Housing Act 2004 (referred to as "the Act"). However, there are circumstances where other pieces of legislation may be more appropriate in dealing with the identified problem
Housing Act 2004 & The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005
Where the Private Sector Housing team has reason to enter a property we will inspect the whole property, and rate it using the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS).
The 2004 Act places a mandatory duty on the Council to take action where a category 1 hazard has been identified. There is a discretionary power to deal with category 2 hazards.
The aim of the Private Sector Housing team is to improve the housing conditions in the private sector by use of advice and education. We run a landlords' forum and are always willing to answer queries and give advice to landlords. We prefer to work with landlords where possible. We recognise that building works can take time to get organised we also recognise that the cost of works can sometimes seem very high for the amount of return.
The Council needs a supply of good quality privately rented accommodation suitable for the needs of its citizens. To achieve this aim the authority needs and values its good landlords. We therefore offer some financial assistance to landlords in return for their agreement to continue to rent the property concerned.
However, there are occasions where these methods are not successful in improving conditions and therefore, it is necessary to consider enforcement action.
- Improvement Notices - An improvement notice is used where reasonable remedial works can be carried out to reduce the hazard sufficiently.
- Prohibition Orders - This order may prohibit the use of part or all of a premises for some or all purposes or for occupation by a particular number or description of people. An order may be appropriate where conditions present a risk but remedial action is unreasonable or impractical
- Hazard Awareness Notices - This is used where a hazard has been identified but it is not necessarily serious enough to take formal action. It is a way of drawing attention to the need for remedial action. This notice is not registered as a land charge and has no appeal procedure.
- Emergency Remedial Action - this is only acceptable for use where there is an imminent risk of serious harm and the hazard must rate as a category 1.
- Emergency Prohibition Order - this is only acceptable for use where there is an imminent risk of serious harm, the hazard rates as a category one and where it is not practical to carry out the remedial works.
- Demolition Order - this can only be used in response to category 1 hazards, but not if the building is listed.
- Clearance Area - All residential buildings in the proposed area must have at least one category 1 hazard.
- Suspend Improvement Notices or Prohibition Orders - these notices may be suspended where enforcement action can safely be postponed until a specified event or time.
An inspection of a property must be carried out and the deficiencies noted. As the principal piece of legislation, the Housing Act 2004 will be considered to assess whether there are category 1 or category 2 hazards within the property. Having made this assessment and dependent on the problems within the property consideration will be given to the most appropriate course of action to reduce the hazards to an acceptable level.
As a minimum, category 1 hazards must be reduced to a low category 2. Where this is not possible all reasonable steps must be taken to reduce the hazards as far as reasonably practicable. In some cases, such as listed buildings, category 1 hazards may remain.
Notices will be placed on the local land charges register.
The person served with the notice/order has the right to appeal against the notice/order on any grounds. The main reasons for appeal are likely to be the contents of the notice/order and the schedule of work. Appeals can also be made on the grounds that the notice/order was not served on the correct person, or that a different course of action would be more appropriate.
Housing Act 2004
Failure to comply with an improvement notice without reasonable excuse - the notice recipient commits an offence and is liable to prosecution. On summary conviction they can be fined up to level 5 on the standard scale. The obligation to carry out the remedial works continues despite the fact that the period for completion has expired. Failure to comply with a Prohibition Order - an offence is committed if the premises is used in contravention to the order, or permission is given for the premises to be used in contravention to the order. On summary conviction fines up to level 5 on the standard scale may be levied. In addition there is a further fine of up to £20 per day for every day or part thereof.