We are delighted to add this blog from Russell Moffatt, Environmental Health Practitioner, at Newham’s Private Sector Housing Team about their innovative approach to tackling the sector.
Newham’s private rented property licensing scheme may change the way the private rented sector is regulated and held accountable by local communities.
Over the last decade Newham’s private rented sector has doubled in size from 20,000 to more than 40,000 properties. Intense demand for cheap housing has resulted in some shocking housing conditions and some of the highest levels of overcrowding in the UK. Houses designed for a family of 5 are regularly found with 12 plus adults living in every available room, on occasions even in the kitchen. Families have been found sharing properties with people they do not know and living at the bottom of gardens in cheaply built sheds with no heating at all. These types of housing conditions put serious environmental pressures on individuals and families and are likely to result is poor health outcomes and diminished life chances.
Newham has licensed 95% of all the eligible private rented properties within 2 years of the scheme starting, along the way many criminal landlords have been prosecuted and property conditions improved.
Licensing has enabled Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) to identify and tackle the worst run properties and ensure tenants are afforded reasonable protection from exploitive and incompetent landlords. At the extreme end, 20 landlords who have been found ‘not fit and proper’ have been banned from renting property in Newham at all, sending a very strong message to the criminal landlord community.
Each property licence sets an occupation limit to help EHPs tackle and prevent overcrowding in the sector as well as to introduce minimum standards relating to the way properties and tenancies are managed. Through issuing licenses not only does the housing authority know who is responsible for maintaining properties, tenants and the general public can also begin to hold landlords accountable, making it easier for them to report problems, such as disrepair and anti-social behaviour.