Cambridge City council is setting an example to others when it reports a wave of investigations into issues relating private sector landlords and those rogue landlords in the borough.
This is something that responsible landlords have been urging councils to do for a long time said a landlord in the borough and the results appear to be proof that the effort has been well worth while with a total of 21 formal notices issued.
The council says it is determined to “get a grip of the booming rental market” with its recent crackdown on the city’s private rented sector, carrying out more than 200 investigations into issues such as illegal evictions, poor management and properties falling into disrepair.
Despite all the effort the crackdown resulted in only one successful prosecution in which a landlord lost its licence. The landlord was fined and found to be no longer fit and proper to hold a licence or be involved in the management of higher risk houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
Cllr Kevin Price, executive councillor for housing, told Cambridge News:
“In order to make improvements to the private rented sector and level the playing field for the majority of good landlords, we will continue to target the small number of landlords who take advantage of tenants by renting out dangerous properties. We hope that by our actions we will show that there is no place in Cambridge for rogue landlords.”
In Cambridge more than one-quarter of the homes are privately rented and rents are on the rise: average rents for rooms and studios flats in Cambridge were up by 12 per cent and 11 per cent respectively over the last year.
This growth in renting has also resulted in more evictions, and complaints relating to five properties in Cambridge which resulted in prosecutions with fines and costs amounting to more than £43,000.
Cambridge is also in the process of updating its landlord accreditation scheme and the council has licensed 51 more HMOs in the last year to ensure they met minimum standards.
Accreditation, which is a voluntary process for landlords, acts as an assurance to tenants that a landlord’s property has been inspected and found safe and that the landlord is a fit and proper person.
Cambridge council has also developed a training programme for landlords to help them meet their obligations and legal responsibilities, to help improve the private rented sector and encourage responsible self-management.
Part of the council’s private rental sector intuitive also involves a “housing stock condition survey”, a trawl of all properties to determine exactly what’s going on in terms of rentals and to develop a better understanding of the private rented sector.
It is well known that most councils are not aware of which houses are rented and which are privately owned and occupied. The RLA has suggested that all council tax applications and renewals should include a section which informs the council if the property is being rented or not, a move which it seems central government is taking seriously as a proposal.
Cambridge is also focussing on long term vacant residential properties and bringing them back into use – last year 10 properties were brought back into use as a direct result of the council’s intervention. An empty homes officer has been appointed and an empty home loan fund has been established to support owners of empty properties and to get them back into use as affordable housing.
— LandlordZONE® (@LandlordZONE) July 27, 2015