To receive an update from the Head of Service (Private Sector Housing) on key areas of activity within the private housing sector over the last twelve months.
The report of the Head of Service Private Sector Housing provides Board Members with an update on key areas of Private Sector Housing activity during the last 12 months.
The following were in attendance for this item:
o Steve Rowley, Landlord Representative
o Mark Ireland, Head of Private Rented Sector
The Chair emphasised the importance of ensuring landlords are responsible, and legislatively compliant, and that there is sufficient investment in PRS properties, to ensure the wellbeing of tenants.
The Head of Private Rented Sector (PRS) introduced the report, and provided a presentation that highlighted the following information:
· The PRS makes up 20% of tenure in the city and is mainly found in pre 1919 stock.
· The accommodation in Leeds is considered good quality accommodation
· Inner-city areas have seen the biggest increase in the PRS, and the poorest quality accommodation is also in inner city areas.
· The aim is to ensure everyone has good quality homes. The Council is working with landlords and continuing to develop the Leeds Rental Standards. The council will also target landlords who fail to meet their legal obligations and will carry out formal action where appropriate.
· An overview on Leeds Rental Standard.
· Physical inspections have been affected by Covid-19, and guidance has largely been provided remotely during the pandemic period. Inspections re-commenced in March 2021.
· 3,000 HMOs are licenced at any one time, and it is coming up to the period of renewals for mandatory licensing. Conditions around ASB are currently being consulted upon and poor standard HMOs are being targeted.
· Rogue landlord unit – targeting criminal landlords in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and sharing intelligence to improve outcomes.
· Leeds Neighbourhood Approach has targeted properties in Holbeck, and provided support in Harehills and Beeston. A holistic approach ensures that residents can access a range of services including employment support alongside ensuring rental standards.
· Selective Licensing area was designated in January 2020. 6309 applications were received, 4530 final licences issued. Proactive inspections ensure people are complying with selective licence.
· It is estimated 500-600 properties remain unlicensed, 62 Civic Penalty Notices have been paid, a further 129 are currently being investigated and 132 are awaiting investigation.
· Homelessness prevention – additional support has been provided to landlords who have assisted the Council in boosting its supply of emergency accommodation for homeless citizens in Leeds. Since March this approach has helped deliver 334 new tenancies
· Concern was expressed about a perceived increase in empty homes in the city centre and student markets.
· Government White Paper – the Council is awaiting further detail on the implications of the Levelling Up white paper, which may affect the private rented sector. There have been indications that further detail may relate to creating minimum standards, introducing a national landlords register and expanding decency standards to all tenures.
In responding to questions from Members, the following information was highlighted:
· Selective Licensing – clarification was provided about the process of developing a business case around strict criteria where there is a desire to identify an area for selective licensing. Most board members were keen to see the approach expanded into other areas of the city.
· The cost associated with Selective Licenses is £825 per property, over a 5-year period. It was noted that accredited landlords signed up to Leeds Rental Standard are offered a £150 discount on licences.
· Consultation has been undertaken with community groups, social media, and hubs. There are no specific tenant groups and associations that are targeted through the consultation process due to the diverse nature of the market.
· Clarity was provided in relation to the application of mandatory conditions for Selective Licenses and the weight applied to such conditions when providing evidence to be able to legally remove a licence from a landlord.
· It was acknowledged that some issues relating to fly-tipping and waste, were due to some landlords not understanding where to report issues and further work is required to educate tenants about their behaviour and responsibilities. Members were informed that landlords who are part of Leeds Rental Standard can receive some benefits in terms of depositing waste Household Waste Centres. Leeds Rental Standard is not a Council led scheme; however, the Council promote and encourage accredited landlords to join.
· In response to concerns regarding minimum standards for Permitted Development conversions, the Executive Member for Infrastructure and Climate confirmed that a document has been produced on Purpose Built Student Accommodation and HMOs and consultation is expected to take place shortly. Confirmation on the progress of this will be provided in due course.
· Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict tenants without reasons on the notice. It was acknowledged that the Governments White Paper seeks to replace Section 21 notices, and proposals in relation to this are yet to be confirmed.
· Tenants can be moved into properties, prior to a Selective Licence being issued.
· Properties with a licence are inspected at least once. However, where this is intelligence on a property or specific issues, inspections will be carried out more regularly.
· Fee income generation from Selective Licensing and mandatory HMO licencing covers the cost of administering and ensuring compliance of schemes and the fee cannot be used to inspect properties / enforcement. It was noted that income from civic penalties introduced by the Government, allow the Council to retain income and use this for enforcement within the PRS and pay additional legal resources.
· HMOs are targeted based on intelligence, and it is recognised that a number of properties fall below the criteria for mandatory HMO licences.
The Chair thanked those in attendance and reiterated the valuable input of services to improve the PRS.
a) To note the contents of the report, and comments made during discussion of this item.
b) To note the progress made across the service on housing activity over the last 12 months.