Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Following a cross departmental meeting in the Authority, the following are the collective views of officers within the Council.

1. Identification of Rented Properties, Landlords and Lettings Agents

1.1 It is recognised that as elsewhere there is a wide spectrum in the quality of both landlords and private rented properties. One of the largest barriers to ensuring that properties are of an acceptable standard and that tenants are treated fairly is that there is no registration of rented properties, private landlords or lettings agents.

1.2 There is adequate legislation for enforcing acceptable standards once a sub-standard property or situation is brought to our attention. The issue here is that we are not made aware of it until a tenant has moved out or in many cases not at all.

1.3 There is no regulation of lettings agents or any professional standards. This makes it impossible for inexperienced landlords and tenants to differentiate between them.

1.4 There is a sub-benefits culture where we think some of the worst conditions may be found, but it is difficult to find these.

1.5 A possible way of collecting the data would be by putting a flag on the Council Tax data asking for tenure and allowing the sharing of this across departments.

Recommendation 1: Compulsory registration of all rented properties, landlords and lettings agents. There is an advantage to ventral Government if this is done in that the information could be shared with Inland Revenue.

2. Enforcement of Standards

2.1 One of the most common reasons locally for properties being sub-standard is poor heating and poor insulation. This is partly due to the nature of the private rented stock being concentrated in older stone terraced properties, many with rooms in the attics and therefore difficult and expensive to insulate.

2.2 The introduction of Energy Performance Certificates seems to have been largely ignored by the private landlords, even those considered to be responsible in other areas. If this situation remains, the future plans for a minimum score on an EPC for rented accommodation will be completely unenforceable.

Recommendation 2: That resource is made available to prioritise the enforcement of having EPCs. One way of assisting with this would be to put in place recommendation 1 above, then allow the sharing of data to compare addresses of rented accommodation with current EPCs

3. Resources for Prosecutions

3.1 There are very few resources available for prosecutions, this has led to some very positive areas of practice as more emphasis is placed on working with landlords to ensure works are done or for carrying out works in default of notices. However, it doesn’t give any sort of warning to the worst landlords that they face prosecution for dangerous and illegal practices.

Recommendation 3: That resource is made available to enable prosecution of the worst cases. This could be by ensuring that magistrates award realistic costs to prosecuting authorities

4. Prevention of Fraud

4.1 There also seems to be no system of preventing the collusion of lettings agents with fraud and money laundering, no vetting of landlords or even checking that supposed landlords own a property prior to it’s being let

4.2 There are many concerns about how Universal Credit will affect the private rented market. One of these is that it may become almost impossible to find out if landlords are claiming rent from more than one household for each property they own.

Recommendation 4: Encourage lettings agents to develop occupational standards which they can advertise that they will adhere to.

Recommendation 5: Put in place an information sharing system prior to Universal Credit alongside recommendation 1 above so that some cross checking of data can be carried out, possibly by the DWP or by Local Authority.

5. Discharge of Homelessness Duties

5.1 Calderdale MBC intends to discharge some of it’s homelessness duties via the private rented market. There are problems in resourcing the policing of the quality of properties.

Recommendation 1: Compulsory registration of all rented properties, landlords and lettings agents. There is an advantage to ventral Government if this is done in that the information could be shared with Inland Revenue.

Recommendation 2: That resource is made available to prioritise the enforcement of having EPCs. One way of assisting with this would be to put in place recommendation 1 above, then allow the sharing of data to compare addresses of rented accommodation with current EPCs

Recommendation 3: That resource is made available to enable prosecution of the worst cases. This could be by ensuring that magistrates award realistic costs to prosecuting authorities

Recommendation 4: Encourage lettings agents to develop occupational standards which they can advertise that they will adhere to.

Recommendation 5: Put in place an information sharing system prior to Universal Credit alongside recommendation 1 above so that some cross checking of data can be carried out, possibly by the DWP or by Local Authority.

January 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013