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Enforcement of housing standards

Our housing Standards team has a statutory duty to enforce a wide range of legislation with the primary aim to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants, home owners and the general public. The team’s main aim is to improve the poorest housing within the private rented sector by tackling issues that affect the health, safety and well-being of families and individuals who have least control over the standard of their living accommodation.

We regard prevention as better than cure and therefore offer free information and advice to landlords, tenants and others. However, the team is concerned with the maintenance of minimum housing standards and the fair treatment of tenants. For this reason we will take enforcement action where it is considered appropriate to ensure compliance with the law.

To achieve compliance with statutory requirements in private sector housing, the team will where possible, work informally with owners, landlords and managing agents. Where an informal approach is not effective in removing or reducing risks to the health and safety of occupants or other members of the public, the team will consider the use of all relevant legislation to remove or reduce those risks.

Enforcement practice for general disrepair

If a landlord is not carrying out repairs for which they are responsible, the council has a statutory duty to investigate any complaints they receive.

On receipt of a request to inspect, officers are required to write to the property owner advising that a referral has been received and this letter provides the owner with a minimum of 24 hours notice that the officer intends to enter the property and carry out an inspection. An officer will then visit the property and carry out a full risk assessment of the property during the inspection. It is usual practice for photographs to be taken to help record their findings.

Following the inspection the officer will carry out a hazard rating of any hazards found at the property under the HHSRS and produce a Schedule of Works required at the property to remove or reduce the hazards. We have a duty to take action if Category One hazards are present and a power to act if Category Two hazards are present. An informal letter will then be sent to the property owner or managing agent detailing the works required.

An initial time frame of 14 days is provided for the owner or managing agent to agree to carry out the works. If the owner or managing agent makes contact within the initial 14 day period, we will continue to work with the landlord informally. We will however set a deadline by which the remainder of the works should be completed by.

If no contact is made to agree to carry out the works or the informal approach has been unsuccessful, we can serve an Improvement Notice which set strict timescales for the works to be completed by. The service of Improvement Notices will also result in an enforcement charge being made to the owner or managing agent to cover our costs. This fee currently stands at £308 for EACH Notice served.

Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice is an offence in law for which we can pursue a prosecution this may also result in the council carrying out the works in default and charging the owner or landlord for ALL the costs associated with this.

We will seek to deter landlords from undertaking retaliatory eviction and will not consider that removal of a tenant achieves compliance with any notice served, except in overcrowding situations where it was a specific requirement of the notice.

Notices served on a property will be registered as a Land Charge against the property until such time as they are complied with. We are also obliged to inform any relevant mortgage company of the enforcement action taken.

If you need advice relating to tenancy issues, have a problem with your tenant, or need any advice on how to go about letting your property, the Housing Advice Team can give you free professional advice and may be able to save you time and money please contact them directly on 01539 793199.

Other Enforcement Options Available under the Housing Act 2004

In certain circumstances the condition of a property found on an inspection may mean that it is not appropriate to follow the above standard practice of dealing with disrepair and an alternative course of enforcement action will be taken. The following list is not exhaustive but intended to act as a general guide:

Hazard Awareness Notice: This Notice is one of an advisory nature, meaning it is not enforceable by us so there are no timescales set for works to begin or finish and no follow up inspection. Its purpose is simply to advise the relevant party of the hazards present within the property. It is often used when properties are occupied by the owners or when the hazards present are less serious. However, should the hazards deteriorate further over time this would not preclude formal action being taken in the future.

Prohibition Order: This can be used when there are serious threats to the health and safety of occupants of a property or visitors to it. It can be used to prohibit the use of all or parts of a dwelling where hazards have been identified. It can also be used to limit the number of occupants.

Emergency Action: This is used when it is considered there is an imminent risk to health and safety. It can be used for Category One hazards only. It allows the local authority to carry out immediate remedial works to a property and serve an Emergency Prohibition Order which will come into effect immediately.

Demolition and Clearance: These options are used relatively rarely and only where Category One hazards are present. They are used when there is an imminent risk to health and safety and properties are considered to be beyond reasonable repair.

Other legislation

Other legislation most commonly used by Housing Standards other than the Housing Act 2004 include:

Environmental Protection Act 1990 section 80: Notices can be served if the Officer is of the opinion that there is a statutory nuisance at the premises. The premises must be deemed prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

Building Act 1984 section 59/60: Used to deal with defective drainage issues in existing buildings.

Building Act 1984 section 64/65: Used where sanitary conveniences are insufficient or in need of replacement and are considered prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

Building Act 1984 section 76: Used where the property is so defective so as to be prejudicial to health. This Notice notifies the person responsible of our intention to remedy the problem (similar to work in default).

Public Health Act 1936 section 45: Used where there are defective sanitary conveniences due to their repair and/or cleansing ability. They must be in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

Public Health Act 1961 section 17: Where any drain, private sewer, water closet, waste pipe or soil pipe has not been maintained and can be repaired for less that £250.

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 section 33: Used where services such as the water supply are due to be, or have been, cut off to a domestic property.

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 Section 29 (Notice of Intended Entry): Used to prevent unauthorised access (for example broken windows, doors etc. to get the owner to board them up securely).

Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 section 4: Used where there is evidence of or harbourage of rats or mice at a property.