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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16 December, 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Dealing with Rogue Landlords in the Vale of Glamorgan

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide information to Cabinet on how the Council will deal with Rogue Landlords operating in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet endorses the current service provision to deal with rogue landlords.

2.         That Cabinet notes the proposed introduction of landlord and letting agent licensing, through the Welsh Government Housing Bill.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To provide the Cabinet with information on how the Council currently deals with rogue landlords in the Vale of Glamorgan.

2.         To provide the Cabinet with information on the Welsh Government Housing Bill that will provide additional enforcement tools to address rogue landlords and support good quality private rented accommodation.

Background

2.         Housing is a devolved function to the Welsh Government.  As a consequence, there maybe be guidance and funding issued to local authorities in England that is not applicable in Wales.  Similarly, their may be campaigns run by national organisations that can not be accessed by Welsh local authorities or residents.  However, the principles behind such guidance or campaigns may still be relevant in Wales.

3.         An example of such a situation is the Shelter England campaign to 'Evict Rogue Landlords'.  This campaign seeks the support of local authorities to take all appropriate action to stop rogue landlords operating in their area.

4.         The Shelter England's campaign is linked to the Department of Communities and Local Government 'Dealing with Rogue Landlords; A guide for Local Authorities'.  This guidance describes rogue landlords as those who target vulnerable tenants and place them in overcrowded or poorly maintained accommodation.

5.         The activity of rogue landlords has an impact on the tenants through the poor quality accommodation and intimidation.  Activity also impacts negatively on local communities from problems with waste through to anti-social behaviour and in some cases increased crime levels.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.         In Wales the 'Dealing with Rogue Landlords; A guide for Local Authorities' guidance is not applicable and Shelter Cymru have not adopted Shelter England's campaign.  However, the principles behind the guidance and campaign are valid to protect vulnerable tenants and support good quality rented accommodation. 

7.         In Wales and in order to support these principles and address rogue landlords, on 18th November 2013, Welsh Government published its Housing Bill that seeks to address conditions within the private rented sector in Wales and issues arising from rogue landlords.  See attached as Appendix 1 the WLGA Briefing Housing Bill November 2013.

8.         The Bill sets out a legislative framework that will support the Welsh Government’s strategic priorities for housing to deliver more homes, better quality homes and better housing-related services.

9.         One specific element in the Housing Bill is the introduction of a new mandatory licensing scheme for all private sector landlords and agents operating in Wales.  It is estimated that through this proposed scheme approximately 130,000 private landlords and a few hundred agents in Wales will be required to register and meet the criteria for licensing, that will include training.  The scheme will require a comprehensive database of landlords and agents in Wales to be generated for the first time and will enable Local Authorities to be proactive in improving housing standards in the private rented sector.

10.      At an officer level, discussions have begun to consider a model to implement and enforce the requirements of the licensing scheme utilising collaboration models to reduce the resource burden on local authorities from this Bill's introduction.  To this end, work is being undertaken to consider whether the voluntary Landlord All Wales Accreditation Scheme, hosted by Cardiff Council, could be developed to meet the needs of the legislation.  Once further information is available on any proposed model a report will be submitted to Cabinet for consideration.

11.      While this proposed licensing scheme is progressed by Welsh Government, the Council will continue to deal with poor quality accommodation and rogue landlords through existing legislation enforced by its Environmental Health Housing service.  This service responds to complaints made by tenants and neighbours of private sector rented accommodation.  In addition, this team inspects houses in multiple occupation (HMO) to ensure landlords are providing accommodation to the required legal standard.  The Council has also recently implemented an addition HMO licensing scheme in the Castleland Renewal Area to work proactively with landlords to improve the quality of accommodation in that area.

12.      While there are some landlords in the Vale of Glamorgan who may provide poor quality accommodation and fail to comply with their legal requirements, the working knowledge and experience of officers in the team would suggest that there are no specific problems with large numbers of rogue or criminal landlords and their properties in our area.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.      There are no direct resource implications from this report.  There is an existing revenue budget to support the current service.

14.      There are likely to be resource implications as a result of the Housing Bill.  These will not be known until the Bill becomes legislation at which point a further report will be presented to Cabinet.

15.      To mitigate the implications of the landlord licensing scheme, work has begun to consider models of collaboration that will reduce the resource burden of implementing that scheme in each local authority across Wales.  When a collaboration models are developed a further report will be submitted outline the options for this Council.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.      Improvement of poor quality accommodation has a positive impact on sustainability and climate change as the property becomes better insulated and weather proof.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.      The legal implications of the new Housing Bill will be considered once the legislation is finalised and laid.

18.      The legal implications of prosecutions will be considered on a case by case basis following the breach of relevant environmental health and planning legislation.  Each case will follow the Council's established legal process to determine whether to lay information and proceed to court.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.      In some cases, addressing the problem property/ rogue landlord may assist in addressing anti-social behaviour and crime levels.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.      Rogue landlords target vulnerable tenants, in some areas specifically migrants.  Taking positive action to address poor quality housing conditions will assist in protecting these vulnerable tenants.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.      Corporate Outcome - Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality, suitable housing and housing advice and support.

22.      Development Services Outcome 1 - Residents of the Vale feel safe in their communities, are healthy and have a good quality of life.

23.      Development Services Objective 1 - To improve the health and wellbeing of the residents and visitors by delivering a range of targeted and accessible services.

Policy Framework and Budget

24.      This report is for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

25.      No consultation undertaken with Ward Members as report will effect all Wards.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

26.      Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Welsh Governments Housing Bill 2013

 

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer - Tel. - 01446 709833

 

Officers Consulted

Principal Lawyer, Legal Services

Principal Accountant, Financial Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services

 

 

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