Mayor of London announces new funding to train housing enforcement officers
To improve housing standards in the private rented sector, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has announced new funding to train local authority housing enforcement officers.
Nearly a fifth of privately rented homes (18 per cent) fail the Government’s Decent Homes standard, although it is not an enforceable standard in the private rented sector. According to the Mayor of London, many boroughs lack the resources to tackle malpractice, improve standards and support private renters due to years of budget cuts from Government.
Research of London Property Licensing shows that London Boroughs currently operate thirty five additional and selective licensing scheme plus the mandatory HMO licensing scheme that applies throughout England. There are currently over 300,000 licensable private rented homes in London, and thousands of properties are being operated illegally without a licence.
The new course, ‘Private Sector Housing Interventions’, is a one year level five qualification delivered by Middlesex University and accredited by Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
With council training budgets squeezed by austerity, the aim of the course is to train those with little or no experience in environmental health or private rental housing up to the standard needed to carry out the duties of a private rented sector enforcement officer.
The new training course will complement an existing ‘Advanced Professional Certificate in Private Sector Housing‘ post graduate level course which is delivered by the University of Middlesex and accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. That course has run over the last three years and helps existing housing officers to further develop their skills. Richard Tacagni MCIEH ECEnvH of London Property Licensing is one of the visting lecturers on that course.
Call to toughen existing Rent Repayment Order sanctions
The Mayor of London is also calling on central government to amend primary legislation so tenants can claim back up to two years rent if a relevant housing offence has been committed. The maximum Rent Repayment Order payment is currently capped at 12 months under legislation introduced in 2006.
For London tenants paying the average rent of £1,425 a month this could increase the maximum rent recovery from £17,100 to £34,200.
For HMO landlords, this could increase rent recovery payments to well over £50,000 for each property where a relevant offence was committed. The list of relevant offences includes operating a licensable property without submitting a valid licence application.
In the short term, any such change to primary legislation seems unlikely. Whilst councils can already submit RRO claims to recover housing benefit / universal credit where a relevant offence has been committed, new research by Flat Justice Community Interest Company indicates that few councils are using these existing powers (read here).
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“Every single Londoner deserves a secure, safe and comfortable home. Nearly a fifth of London’s private rented accommodation doesn’t meet basic standards and it is clear that more needs to be done to support tenants.
“I want to see tougher penalties for rogue operators and this action can only come from the Government. Poor housing conditions and exploitative rents have an awful impact on both the physical and mental health of tenants and these actions need to have consequences. With the cost-of-living spiralling, Londoners also need the government to give us the power to bring in rent controls which may’s election gave us a clear mandate for.
“I also want to see boroughs empowered to stand up for tenants. This new qualification will give councils across London the workforce and expertise to mediate disputes, enforce standards and crack down on the rogues who give the many honest operators in the sector a bad name.“
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Chief Executive, Dr Phil James said:
“We are delighted to work together with the Mayor of London to develop this important qualification. It should give London councils the route to train up members of their teams with the skills needed in order to support tenants, do more inspections of rented properties and to take more enforcement actions against unscrupulous landlords, who rent out dangerous and unhealthy homes in the city.
“Unfortunately, there are currently not enough qualified Environmental Health Practitioners for local authorities to recruit. We have been working hard to change this, both through our public facing campaigns like #ChooseEnvironmentalHealth, where we have been generating new interest in the profession, and our call to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to create a national apprenticeships fund for local authorities, to help local areas fund the cost of training up more environmental health practitioners.“
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