The Policy, as set out, seeks to accord with the principles of good enforcement, which forms part of the Government's Enforcement Concordat, which the Council has formally adopted.
Inspections of residential premises,both private and Council owned are carried out, having regard to the duties imposed under the Housing Act 1985,to ensure:
Where a local authority forms the opinion that a house is unfit for human habitation, a decision must be made as to whether it should be included in a clearance area, repaired, closed or demolished.
Where premises are not "unfit", but are in substantial disrepair, local authorities may also require works to be carried out. Refer to the informal and formal enforcement procedures detailed in this document.
Inspections of HMOs both private and Council owned are carried out, having regard to the duties imposed under the Housing Act 1985,to ensure:
Inspections are carried out on a proactive basis, unless in response to a request from a tenant, landlord or other agency.
When reaching an enforcement decision, regard is made to the following:
The Council has, through its Private Sector Housing Service, a range of powers to enable it to investigate and take appropriate action for disrepair in private rented properties and to ensure adequate standards within HMOs. These are as follows:-
Whenever a request is made to the Private Sector Housing, officers will investigate and supply appropriate guidance on legislation, Council procedures and the criteria used to assess the matter, either verbally or by letter.
An initial response to an enquiry will be made within 3 days and any written correspondence will be responded to within ten days, in writing.
Following initial advice, wherever appropriate a visit will be made to the property to determine whether works are required. The officer will clearly identify whether any works are advisory or required under legislation. Any such works will be clearly defined in a Schedule which will be sent to the person receiving the rent i.e. Council/Agent/Landlord. If the requirements are mandatory, a timescale for compliance will be specified. Consideration will also be made on whether the Council's grant policy is appropriate.
The officer's primary concern will be to safeguard the health and safety of any occupants. Consideration will be made to the age of the property, its structure and locality. Under the current legislation no consideration can be made of specific requirements of the current tenants. The same standard must be applied to all tenants.
Informal action will be taken where in the following cases:
Where disrepair is prejudicial to health and safety and the landlord/agent has not agreed to repair or complied with the informal agreement, statutory notices will be served. The Council will clearly indicate the works to be carried out and the time period within which the work must be completed. The statutory notice will be served on the person(s) receiving the rent of the property. Copies are sent to any other person having a legal interest in the property.
The type of statutory notice used will be that most appropriate for the type and effect of the disrepair and will be one of the following:
This Notice is served whenever formal action is being considered. It requires the recipient to provide any information he/she has on the freeholder or leaseholder of the property, the name of the person receiving the rent and the names of any tenants. The Notice must be completed and returned to the Department within 14 days. The information helps the Council to identify the correct person on whom to serve any subsequent statutory notices.
Housing Act Notices are served, where the disrepair affects the health and safety of the occupants. Initially a Notice of Intention will be sent to the person receiving the rent. The Notice of Intention will identify the specific Notice which will be served, the reason why it is being served and giving a specified time period for the person to contact the Council, to put forward their views on the proposed action, either verbally or in writing. Following the expiry of the time periods specified in the requisition for information/notice of intention, and if an agreement is not made to carry out the works within the period of time specified by the Council, then the formal Housing Act Notice will be served. The Notice will clearly state the work required, dates by which the work must be started and completed and details of how to appeal.
Where premises are in such a state as to be prejudicial to health and where unreasonable delay would occur, if the Housing Act or Environmental Protection Act Notices were used, then a Notice will be served under the Building Act requiring the works to be completed within 9 days. If it is not, then works will be carried out in default.
Where disrepair to the property is not a risk to its occupants but is causing a statutory nuisance to a neighbouring property, a Notice will be served under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Notice will be served following failure to agree informally to the works being carried out. A "Notice of Intention" is not required. Further details of the procedures followed, are contained in the "Statutory Nuisance Enforcement and Prosecution Policy".
Where HMOs lack the necessary fire precautions, basic amenities or are poorly management and the landlord has not agreed to remedy the defects, a Notice will be served on the person(s\ receiving the rent from the property. Copies are sent to any other person having a legal interest in the property.
The Council will clearly indicate the works to be carried out and the time period within which the works must be completed. The standard required is as detailed in the Essex Chief Environmental Health Officers, Specialist Housing Group Codes of Practice - "Amenity Standards in HMOs" and "Provision of Means of Escape from Fire and Other Fire Precautions" and other relevant statutory provisions.
The type of Notice will be that most appropriate for the works required and will be one of the following:
This Notice is served where a property fails to have:
Minimum space standards within HMOs are detailed in the Essex Chief Environmental Health Officers, Specialist Housing Group Codes of Practice - "Amenity Standards in HMOs"
The Housing (Management of HMOs) Regulations 1990 details where the landlord has duties of management and includes the installation and management of gas, electricity, water supplies and drainage, maintenance of means of ventilation, escape from fire, living accommodation and outbuildings and yards in common use and accumulations.
The Council may take control in respect of any HMO within the private sector where;
Consultation to be taken with other Departments and a Committee decision made.
The Control Order is terminated either:
Costs are recovered by a charge against the premises and all estates and interests in the premises.
The Council may initiate prosecution where:
In deciding whether to prosecute, the Council will consider:
Prosecution will only be instigated following a review of the case by the Team Manager, Head of Housing and the Legal Department.
When a Notice is served, officers must detail the appeal procedures, and inform the landlord that action on a Notice is suspended while an appeal is pending.
Where the requirements of the notice are not carried out, the council is empowered to carry out the required works and recover the costs from the person responsible. The council will undertake works in default when:-
In deciding whether to carry out works in default, the Council will consider;
The council may recover costs from the person responsible as a civil debt or by placing a charge on the property.
Under normal circumstances 24 Hours notice has to be given to enter onto any residential property.
Authorised Officers have the power to enter any premises at any reasonable time in order to;
Before using such powers it must be confirmed that informal action:
If entry is refused, an officer may apply to a Justice of peace or a warrant to enter the premises, if necessary, by force.
The Authorised Officer may;
More formal action will be taken in the following circumstances:-
Formal correspondence will be forward to the relevant Departments, Heads of Service. The correspondence will clearly indicate the works to be carried out and the time period within which the work must be completed. Copies are sent to any other person(s) or Departments having a legal interest in the property. The tenant(s) will be advised accordingly.
Where there has been non-compliance with the formal correspondence, the Department may initiate further formal proceedings, through the following procedures:-
Persons are encouraged to contact the Officers Line Manager in the first instance if they have a complaint.
All complaints will be dealt with in accordance with Council established complaints procedures.
The policy will be regularly monitored to ensure its workability, implications and effectiveness.
This policy will be reviewed annually or sooner if necessary, to reflect changes in legislation, recommendations in guidance and standards from Central Government and other associated groups.