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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 7th  October 2015

 

Report of the Director of Environment and Housing Services

 

Inspection of Private Rented Sector Properties for Homelessness Purposes

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To apprise Scrutiny Committee of the procedure for ensuring that all private rented sector accommodation secured by the Housing Solutions Service is suitable, appropriate and meets the required standards and to highlight the increased demand and resources required to continue to provide inspections based on current practices.

Recommendations

  1. That Scrutiny Committee notes the current arrangement for the inspection of private rented sector properties in relation to preventing homelessness.
  2. The Scrutiny Committee is aware of the potential future growth of the use of private rented sector and the resource implications that may result.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. For information.
  2. To inform and assist scrutiny of future property inspection options.

Background

  1. On 17th September 2014, the Housing (Wales) Bill became the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. A significant part of the new legislation is concerned with homelessness, the specific of which came into effect on 27th April 2015.
  2. One of the main purposes of the legislation is to ensure that fewer households experience the trauma of homelessness and that this is countered through early intervention and more effective use of the private rented sector (PRS).
  3. The previous homelessness legislation only permitted a local housing authority (LHA) e.g a council is to discharge its statutory homelessness duty into a social rented tenancy. This not only placed significant pressures on this type of tenure, but also on homelessness services and exacerbated the length of time that people had to stay in temporary accommodation. It also created a situation where homelessness was perceived as the only way to secure a Council property.
  4. The new legislation has sought to redress the balance, by recognising that there is a shortage of social rented properties and introducing the capacity for a local authority to be able to discharge its homelessness duty into the private rented sector (PRS).
  5. These new duties are set out within Part 2 of the Act. It is recognised that PRS housing may not be appropriate for all applicants. In particular, local authorities must also consider the suitability of accommodation for the individual and must be satisfied it such factors as support needs, location, cultural needs, size, affordability and condition have been taken into account. For many the PRS will offer the only realistic opportunity of finding the type of property they need in their preferred area of choice.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Council has worked closely with the private rented sector since the introduction of its Vale Assisted Tenancy Scheme (VATS) in November 2004. It has continued over the years to build on relationships both with landlords and letting agencies operating in the Vale.
  2. Since 2012 all PRS accommodation being considered as a housing solution to prevent homelessness is inspected by an officer from the Environmental Health team.
  3. The properties are inspected having regard to Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Under HHSRS 29 potential hazards are considered. Where hazards are identified they are rated in line with national statistics, likelihood and outcomes to determine a score and banded A - J. Hazards banded C or above are classed as the more serious Category 1 hazards and those below are categorised as less serious Category 2 hazards.
  4. A property with a number of Category 1 hazards and/or a significant number of Category 2 hazards would be rejected as unsuitable for use by the Housing Solutions Service. Landlords are provided with schedules of remedial works which giving them the opportunity to improve unsuitable properties.
  5. It is also important to note the ingoing tenants' vulnerabilities, age and number of bedrooms required are also considered and assessed against any identified hazards, ensuring the assessment undertaken is robust when determining the suitability of a property.
  6. Since 2012 a total of 372 referrals for inspection had been made to Environmental Health. The numbers of referrals have remained static at around 80 per annum in 2013 and 2014, but have increased significantly in 2015 to 114.
  7. It is anticipated that the use of the PRS will continue to grow and as a result the Housing Solutions Team is expecting to secure an additional 180 rented properties in this financial year. Since April 2015, 66 new tenancies have been secured and let in the private rented sector. In comparison just 23 Council tenancies were let to homeless households, thus evidencing how important the PRS is preventing and alleviating homelessness.
  8. It is acknowledged that the anticipated increase in the number of additional PRS referrals is likely to result in increased workload for officers within both service areas and a number of options will need to be considered to meet this increased demand.
  9. Options could include increased staff resources, reductions in the number of inspections based on current knowledge or risk or the use of non-technical staff for inspection purposes. Whilst there is no legal requirement to undertake any inspection at all unless the tenant or prospective tenant has raised a concern, it is felt that some form of inspection will remain necessary.
  10. Any suggested change to the existing inspection arrangements would be subject to a further report.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There are no direct financial implications resulting from this report. However future growth in the use of PRS and the potential increased workload may give rise to a review of current resource requirements to meet this increased demand.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The properties will continue to be assessed under HHSRS 29 for potential hazards.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The availability of good quality housing options will have a positive impact on homelessness clients who are likely to be more susceptible to crime and disorder difficulties.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The availability of good quality housing will do much to improve the quality of life of some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. This report is consistent with the Corporate Objective of the Council regarding

housing:

"Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support."

  1. This report is also consistent with the Council's Local Housing Strategy 2015-20 which aims to ensure that 'Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support'.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. This report will affect homeless clients throughout the Vale of Glamorgan and therefore no individual ward member consultation has been undertaken.

Background Papers

Housing (Wales) Act 2014 Part 1 & Part 2

Housing Wales Act - Code of Guidance 2015

Housing Act 2004 Part 1- Housing Conditions

Housing Health & Safety Rating System Operating Guidance

 

Contact Officer

Ian Jones - Housing Solutions Manager

Officers Consulted

Lori Bigglestone- Accountant

Julian Love - Team Leader Environmental Health (Housing)

Committee Reports - Legal Services

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Environment and Housing Services

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