Tuesday, April 8, 2014
More than 2,800 people in Norwich are living in privately rented homes with conditions which pose a “significant threat” to their health and safety, council bosses have revealed.
Two Norwich landlords were fined thousands of pounds last summer after prosecutions by the city council.
Rodney Martins, 56, from Connaught Road, Norwich, admitted a number of charges. He was convicted of three charges of failing to comply with regulations in respect of management of housing in multiple occupation. He was also convicted of two charges of failing to comply with a prohibition order, relating to a property in Motum Road, North Earlham, on December 17, 2012 and January 10, 2013. He was fined £4,800 plus a £120 victim surcharge and £4,000 costs.
Timothy Harber, 60, from Pottergate, Norwich, pleaded guilty to six charges of failing to comply with regulations in respect of management of housing in multiple occupation.
Norwich City Council prosecutor Yvonne Blake said an inspection of his property at Lower Clarence Road revealed it had no smoke detectors in rooms, no fixed heating in the individual bedsits, and the fire door did not properly shut. He was fined £2,940, plus a victim surcharge of £120, and ordered to pay costs of £343.80.
And Norwich City Council is looking into whether to introduce a new system of accreditation to try to bring the city’s privately rented homes up to a better standard, while pledging to take action against landlords who fail to meet acceptable standards.
The survey by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) showed that 20pc of the 14,398 privately-rented homes in Norwich had what are known as Category 1 hazards.
The ‘threats’, known as Category 1 hazards, include damp and mould, hard-to-heat homes, trip and fall hazards and a lack of fire precautions.
The BRE also estimated that, of 3,114 homes which are rented out to multiple occupiers, a quarter of those have a category 1 hazard.
At a recent meeting of Norwich City Council, a motion was unanimously passed, asking the controlling Labour cabinet to look into whether it could introduce a system of accreditation and licencing.
Mike Stonard, Labour’s cabinet member for environment, development and transport, who put forward the motion said he hoped that would set standards and incentivise landlords to manage their properties in an acceptable way.
An accreditation system, he said, would mean people could choose whether to rent from a landlord who is city council-accredited or whether to take their chances with one which has not entered into the scheme.
Mr Stonard said: “Twenty-two per cent of households in the city rent from private landlords, which is one of the highest percentages in the east of England, and that’s doubled over the past 10 years.
“Part of the reason is the growth in the city’s student population, but much of it is because people are being priced out of private home ownership, which means people who would like to buy cannot afford to do so.
“Another factor is in the fall in the number of sites with planning permission coming forward, which has resulted in a reduced supply of new homes.”
Mr Stonard said the city council, which rents 15,500 homes to council tenants, had an “exemplary” record as a landlord, but that not all private landlords could say the same.
He said: “Too many homes are not of a high enough standard. We are proposing the possibility of an accreditation and licensing scheme in the city.
“The accreditation scheme would be for landlords who are committed to providing a high standard of accommodation. We are looking put in a system where voluntary accreditation would provide an exemption from licensing, on a self assessment basis.”
“This idea has been favourably received by landlords and by the Department for Communities and Local Government.”
Ash Haynes, Green city councillor for Town Close ward, said it was important to deal with the issue. She said: “Living in a bad property can really make your life so much worse. It can affect every area of your life.
“Hopefully it will encourage landlords to sign up and it will be enforced. One of the big problems at the moment is the lack of enforcement.”
Judith Lubbock, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, said it was important to raise standards in the private sector, but questioned whether a voluntary scheme would work.
She said: “I think in order for it to have teeth, you have got to have the resources to make the checks. It is a very good idea to look at what other authorities are doing and whether a combination of self certification and licensing would work.”
Mr Stonard said: “In terms of whether its voluntary or not - our scheme is voluntary as long as they meet the standards. If they do not they will have to be licensed and we will charge rates for that which would be used for enforcement. We need to find a cost effective way.”
The motion also urged the cabinet to keep using enforcement powers to act against landlords who fail to meet acceptable standards.
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