To receive an update from the Director of Resources and Housing about general interventions by the Council in the private rented sector and the progress made by Housing Leeds on implementing selective licensing in Beeston and Harehills.
The report of the Director of Resources and Housing provided an update about general interventions by the Council in the private rented sector and the progress made by Housing Leeds on implementing selective licensing in Beeston and Harehills.
The following were in attendance for this item:
o Cllr Coupar, Executive Board Member for Communities
o Neil Evans, Director of Resources & Housing
o Jill Wildman, Chief Officer Housing Management
o Simon Costigan, Chief Officer Property & Contracts
o Mark Ireland, Service Manager, Private Sector Housing
o Mike Brook, Service Manager, Private Sector Housing
The Service Manager, Private Sector Housing, presented the report and highlighted the following key issues:
· There has been an increase in the level of inadequate and unacceptably managed accommodation provided by poor landlords;
· 4,100 requests for service from tenants in the private rented sector had been received;
· 1,740 legal notices had been served;
· The intention to do marketing around the application process with selective licensing;
· The Leeds Neighbourhood Approach (LNA);
· Helped 153 households in one of the most deprived areas of Leeds;
· The scheme led to nearly 500 new lets’;
· Selective licensing in Beeston and Harehills as of 6th January 2020.
Key issues identified in discussion with the Board included:
· Selective Licensing. In response to a query as to whether this would be extended across additional wards, the Director of Resources and Housing informed the Board that implementing Selective Licensing across an area, has to be done on a business case basis, and evidence would need to be provided. The Board heard that the Council have raised concern to the government, that within some of the poorest communities, landlords are funded through housing benefit, with no guarantee on the quality of the property.
· In-house lettings agency. A Member sought clarity on the Council’s position on the previous proposal. In responding, the Service Manager (Private Sector Housing), confirmed this wasn’t a viable option. Alternatively, Members’ were informed that the ‘Leeds’ Letting Scheme’ successfully created 500 lets last year, and enabled the minimum building standards to be met; the Board were informed the scheme is running well, and the service are working closely with landlords on vulnerable tenants.
· Legal notices. Concerns were raised in regard to the amount of money spent on Legal Services, in regard to the losses in appeal hearings. Officers explained the effectiveness of courts and tribunals and informed Members of the process in regard to civic penalties and how they’re similar to prosecutions; further generating an income of which will go back into the private sector. Members’ further heard that a number of multiple prosecutions, could lead to the landlord being banned.
To summarise, the Executive Board Member for Communities informed the Board that the Council are dealing with an estimated 70 thousand private rented units of accommodation; the focus has been on number of properties to ensure the safety of tenants to ensure the minimum standards are being met.
Additionally, the Chair requested that an update be brought to the Scrutiny Board (EHC) at the meeting to be held in February, in regard to fuel poverty and energy efficiency in the private rented sector. Further to this, the Board were informed an annual landlord conference is being held in November, and the key theme focuses on the climate emergency declaration. It was confirmed that 250 landlords would be in attendance, and the National Landlord Association and EON would also be in attendance to provide presentations on what the industry are doing in regard to the declaration.
The Chair thanked officers for their attendance, and for their work.
RESOLVED – The Scrutiny Board (Environment, Housing and Communities):
a) Noted the information contained within the report, and provided at the meeting;
b) Requested that, a further progress report be presented to a future meeting of the Board – on the subject of fuel poverty and energy efficiency.