Some time ago at an Ordinary Council meeting, in response to my Resident's Question, you assured me that the properties which are owned by private landlords and tenanted by benefit claimants are inspected on a regular basis by someone from the Housing Dept.
My tenant was made redundant last summer (2012) and, because of that happening, he is in receipt of rent benefits.
During that time, no one has inspected my property.
I request that you send me:
- a list of the properties whose landlords receive rent payments from the benefits office;
- a list of when they were inspected during the last five years
- the report(s) which resulted from these visits
- the name(s) of the officer(s) who made these inspections and reports.
I think you are referring to the question that you asked at Council on 20 March 2013, and, if so, I think you have misunderstood Cllr Pound’s reply. The full text of your question and Cllr Pound’s response are as follows:
In the Homelessness Prevention Strategy Draft Plan, paragraph 20.11 says that the private rented sector is identified as the top priority for our Homelessness Prevention Strategy". This is going to be critical to "achieve the new opportunities of securing private rented sector homes to discharge our homeless responsibilities. Why is the adjective "de-regulated" not printed before the underlined words?
The phrase “de-regulated” is not used, because it is not accurate.
Private Sector Landlords have a variety of statutory obligations that they must fulfil. For example:
• Their homes must be fit for human habitation, not overcrowded, in an appropriate state of repair, provided with an energy performance certificate, and have safe gas and electrical installations.
• Landlords must grant tenants an appropriate tenancy agreement, normally an Assured Shorthold agreement, which guarantees occupation of the property for a fixed term and places a minimum period notice on the landlord if they wish to terminate the tenancy.
• Landlords must not harass or discriminate against their tenants.
• Landlords of certain houses in multiple occupation are required to license the property.
The Council’s environmental health section enforces these standards. In many instances, landlords in breach of these obligations can be guilty of a criminal offence.
Our draft Homelessness Prevention Strategy refers to the new powers of the Localism Act which enable local authorities to meet their homelessness duties in some circumstances by providing private rented homes. These new powers carry with them a number of specific requirements to ensure that the homes are appropriate and are regularly inspected. These are over and above the basic statutory duties that the landlord has, to which I have already referred.
I have highlighted the part where Cllr Pound referred to inspection of properties, but you will see that she said it not in the context of tenants who are on benefit but rather in the context of where we use new statutory powers to re-house tenants to whom we have a homeless duty into properties in the private rented sector. It is our intention to use these powers in the future where appropriate, and where we do so we must ensure that the properties are inspected, but we have not used the powers to date. I hope this explains why your tenant has not been visited.
As regards your question asked under Freedom of Information, it is the case that the Council awards Housing Benefit to a number of tenants in private rented properties. It is also the case that the Council’s Environmental Health section inspects a number of private rented properties each year as part of their enforcement duties detailed above. However, we are unable to confirm the addresses of any private rented properties where the tenant is on housing benefit and where our Environmental Health section have inspected. This is because to do so would release to you personal details about the occupants of the properties – that is that their income is of a level where they would qualify for Housing Benefit – and we have obtained that information in confidence from them for the purpose of calculating the Housing benefit that is due to them. The Freedom of Information Act does not require us to provide information to a member of the public if to do so would breach a duty of confidence to another person.