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Agenda item

London / Abbeydale / Chesterfield Road Selective Licensing Update

Report of the Director of Housing Services.



The Committee received a progress report on London/Abbeydale/Chesterfield Road Selective Licensing.  The Committee had previously received an update at the inception of the scheme and had requested a further update following its implementation.




Present for this item were Catherine Hughes (Team Manager, Private Housing Standards), Councillor Paul Wood (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety) and Janet Sharpe (Director of Housing and Neighbourhoods Services).




Catherine Hughes outlined the work of the Private Housing Standards Service which has a duty to address poor housing conditions and carry out inspections to those properties.  There are approximately 420 privately rented properties within the London/Abbeydale/Chesterfield Road Selective Licensing area and, to date, 412 applications from landlords to hold a licence have been received. She said the Service had investigated where applications had not been received from landlords and although this was a lengthy process, 23 Civil Penalties had been served on those who had failed to apply.  Ms Hughes outlined a number of serious hazards that had been identified, stating that in some properties these hazards had been resolved and work was still ongoing in others.  She said that before a licence was granted, the Service carried out landlord checks which required that they pass a “fit and proper” person test, to provide information about their management arrangements to ensure that properties are safe and managed in a satisfactory way and that the landlord was the most appropriate person to hold a licence.  She referred to vulnerable families who had lived in properties with severe damp and mould for a number of years, but didn’t know how to overcome this.   She added that on inspection, some properties had been found to be structurally unsafe and prohibition notices had been served and also, in some cases, valid gas safety certificates had not been issued on gas appliances being used inside the premises. Ms Hughes outlined the legal notices that had been served to date.




Members of the Committee made various comments and asked a number of questions, to which responses were given as follows:-




·                     A licence is granted for five years and each licensed property will be visited twice during that period. 




·                     Of the applications still not received, estimated at around 10, many of the properties within the London Road area, are flats above commercial premises and officers were visiting these premises either early in the morning or in the evening to establish whether they were occupied.  Officers have power of entry and can go into any property with 24 hours’ notice.




·                     There are five dedicated officers carrying out inspections, and by year four of the five year scheme, it was anticipated that all properties will have been inspected at least once.  It was still early days and the Service is looking to recruit more officers to carry out inspections.




·                     Following the introduction of the Selective Licensing Scheme in the Page Hall area of the city, good intelligence has been received from this, and there is a watching brief over this as it is a different type of community in that area.




·                     Where a Civil Penalty had been served on a landlord for failure to apply to licence their property, a good response had been received.  Each case was judged on its own merits and no prosecutions have been made.




·                     Of 132 fit and proper checks carried out to date, none of the landlords have failed the fit and proper test, although nine are being investigated further.




·                     In response to suggestions to roll out Selective Licensing Schemes all over the city, it was stated that a report would be produced with regard to the private rented sector, looking into the key priorities.  Selective Licensing was labour intensive and to carry the scheme out city-wide, the Private Standards Service Teams would need to significantly increase.




·                     Where properties have been closed due to poor conditions, tenants can approach the Council’s Housing Service and ask to be rehoused, but this was dependent on individual circumstances as to whether rehousing was temporary where properties can be made safe, or permanent if not. 




·                     The Council has interim and emergency accommodation available to those persons displaced through anti-social behaviour.




·                     In 2023 the LAC designation comes to an end.  If there were still issues to address, then the Council will have evidence of what those issues are and be able to make a decision as to how best to address them.




·                     In order to bring Selective Licensing Schemes into other areas of the city, there needs to be a considerable amount of evidence gathered, which takes at least 12 months to achieve.  The Service would need to find out what the issues were within an area, look at living conditions in that area and deal with any individual properties requiring improvement first.  All other options would have to be considered before Selective Licensing could be considered city wide.  In addition, full consultation would have to take place across the city and Secretary of State approval would be required.




·                     With private rented properties outgrowing Council properties, there was a need to prioritise resources, but many staff were working on the ground, not desk based.  The staffing numbers in Private Housing Standards have more than halved since 2008, while the private rented sector has more than doubled.




·                     The Housing Service does work closely with Acorn to see if the Service can do more to tackle some of the issues faced by those renting in the private sector.  The Service also has a good relationship with both Universities in the city to enable them to provide good quality housing, but this is reliant on good landlords to provide decent homes.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)       thanks Catherine Hughes, Janet Sharpe and Councillor Paul Wood for their contribution to the meeting;




(b)       notes the contents of the report and the responses to the questions; and




(c)        requests that an item outlining the bigger picture across Sheffield regarding private rented houses, be added to the Work Programme.


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