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Council cash boost a ‘spit in the ocean’

Stuart Spear08/01/2014 - 12.00

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Poor conditions in rental sector
Poor conditions in rental sector

A government cash boost of £4m for local authorities to tackle rogue landlords is a spit in the ocean when it comes to tackling the true scale of poor conditions in the private rented sector, the CIEH has warned.

The Department for Communities and Local Government announced on 30 December that 23 councils would share an allocated £4m Christmas cash boost to tackle ‘unscrupulous scrooges’ who, according to housing minister Kris Hopkins, ‘rent dangerous, dirty and overcrowded properties without a thought for the welfare of their tenants’.
The cash is also expected to go some way to help councils build on ongoing work to tackle ‘beds in sheds’. More than 500 of these illegally rented outhouses have been discovered since 2011 with action taken against owners. Nine councils have already received £2.6m to tackle the problem.

But according to CIEH principal policy officer, Bob Mayho, the funding available to councils is a mere spit in the ocean when it comes to tackling poor conditions in the private rented sector.

‘While we welcome the payment we must be aware that there is a much larger task to achieve than through this allocation and that the cut (amounting to over £1bn over three years) of the housing renewal budget in 2010 severely reduced the ability of local authorities to address poor conditions in the private sector,’ said Mr Mayho.

According to the 2013 English House Condition Survey 35 per cent of all private rented sector properties would fail the old decency standard. This compares to 17 per cent of local authority properties and 16 per cent of housing association properties.

Out of the 23 councils earmarked £1,028,000 or a quarter of the funding has been allocated to Newham. The next highest allocation was £293,000 for Blackpool and then £260,000 for Hounslow.

The funding coincides with new legislation that came into force this month allowing courts to take a landlord’s assets into account as well as their income when levying fines.

In another move to improve standards, lettings and property management agents will now be required to join an approved scheme so that tenants have some recourse against poor service.

The DCLG private sector team is preparing a discussion paper to be released at the end of this month on options for improving standards in the private rented sector. The CIEH has already made the case for the discussion paper to propose a review the Housing Health and Safety Rating System statutory guidance. 

The 23 councils that will receive funding to help tackle rogue landlords are: Barnsley (£230,000), Blackpool (£293,000), Bolton (£56,000), Boston (£109,000), Bournemouth (£134,000), Croydon (£82,000), Derby (£238,000), Fenland (£179,000), Hastings (£204,000), Herefordshire (£54,000), Hounslow (£260,000), Lambeth (£82,000), Leeds (£125,000), Lewisham (£125,000), Medway (£64,000), Newham (£1,028,000), Nottingham (£124,000), Oxford (£150,000), Pennine Lancashire (£109,000), Plymouth (£68,000), Rochdale (£111,000), Rossendale (£79,000), Sheffield (£145,000).




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