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Decision details

Private Sector Housing Report

Decision Maker: Executive Councillor for Housing

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

The Executive Councillor is recommended to: Note the contents of this report, assessing progress on the work as outlined in the report and in time for any new bids to be submitted in the budget for the following year.

Decision:

Matter for Decision

The report outlined:

·  The structure of the Council’s Residential Team, Environmental Health, Environmental Services.

·  The work of the Residential Team in relation to improvement of private sector rented homes within the City in Quarter 1 – Quarter 3 2021/22 for which complete data was available.

·  The Teams Operational Plan for 2022/23 in relation to private rented sector homes within the Environmental Health Operational Plan.

·  Matters on the horizon in relation to the private rented sector for 2022 / 23 and beyond including Government reform.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Housing

  i.  Noted the contents of the report, which assessed progress on the work detailed in the report in time for any new bids to be submitted in the budget for the following year.

 

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.

 

Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.

 

Scrutiny Considerations

The Committee received a report from the Residential Team Manager, Environmental Services.

 

The Committee made the following comments in response to the report:

  i.  Drew the committee’s attention to paragraphs 3.20-3.21 of the officer’s report. Noted a reduction in the number of complaints in 2020 due to the pandemic but noted that an increase in the number of complaints was encouraging as it showed residents were beginning to feel confident about reporting complaints and that covid secure visits could now be made. Asked why the number of complaints had increased particularly in Petersfield, Queen Edith’s, Coleridge, and West Chesterton wards.

  ii.  Noted the private rented sector had grown by 40% based on the 2011 census data. Noted some private rented properties in Cambridge were not well looked after and that the council would take action where required. Asked for the report to contain a full year’s worth of information and asked to see the last 4 years’ worth of data, including housing complaints, breakdown of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and data on enforcement. Asked what ‘HMO specific’ complaints were.

  iii.  Asked with reference to recommendation D what targeted / pro-active work around HMOs looked like. Asked what anti-social behaviour from tenants referred to. Asked whether tenants could be included in this work. Asked if there could be a webpage explaining tenants’ rights if they did not feel that they were living in safe accommodation. Noted that it was mostly commercial landlords who offered short term lets and as the number of short term let accommodation increased this reduced the housing stock available. 

  iv.  Asked if the 2011 or 2021 census data would detail whether people lived in social rented accommodation or private rented accommodation.

  v.  Asked if the housing complaints detailed on page 61 of the agenda were raised by tenants or if some were raised by neighbours or other people in the community. Noted that some tenants may be cautious about raising concerns / issues with the council and often relied on neighbours or others within the community to bring complaints to the council’s attention so that they did not get any reprisal from the landlord or the managing agent. 

  vi.  Noted that student accommodation did not suit all students for example those undertaking teacher training courses / nurses, as these students may not be in Cambridge for the whole year. Some of these students had ended up using Air BnBs, which was an insecure type of accommodation. Expressed concerns regarding short-term letting accommodation.

 vii.  Was keen to see the 2021 census data built into any follow up report and commented that the September Housing Scrutiny Committee may allow time for officers to assess this information and formulate any budget bids to follow up actions as appropriate.

 

The Residential Team Manager, Environmental Services and the Housing Strategy Manager. said the following in response to Members’ questions:

  i.  Believed the reduction in the number of complaints about private sector housing was due to the hesitancy to make complaints during the pandemic. Even when the eviction ban was in place, felt residents were still uncertain about making complaints owing to the perceived need for an inspection of the property and / or any reprisals from landlords. Petersfield, Queens Edith’s, Coleridge and West Chesterton wards had a high percentage of student housing which tended to be multiple occupied accommodation. When tenancies changed (when students moved on) there tended to be a heightened number of complaints. 

  ii.  Would discuss with the Executive Councillor the best way to provide the additional data requested. HMO specific complaints were complaints relating to a landlord’s failure to comply with statutory requirements for HMOs including fire precautions and associated management requirement for these properties. 

  iii.  Had undertaken data mapping work in conjunction with Revenue and Benefits colleagues to identify where suspected HMOs were across the city. The pro-active work would involve inspecting un-licensed licensable HMO properties. A review of the information available for tenants on the council’s website could be undertaken, this has been reviewed during the pandemic in-line with associated changes to complaint investigation procedure. The Landlord Steering Group had recently been resurrected but it could be investigated to see if private sector tenant representatives could be represented at this group. Acknowledged short term lettings was a national issue. Noted that local authorities in Scotland had been asked to administer a short term let licensing scheme. Would have to wait and see whether England introduced a similar scheme in response to private sector housig reform and the Levelling Up White Paper.

  iv.  Census data was broken down by housing tenure and included whether a property was a council property, a housing association property, shared ownership or if it was privately owned.

  v.  Generally complaints were made by tenants but issues could also be raised by neighbours or support workers.

  vi.  Her team works closely with the planning enforcement team with regards to short term let accommodation.

 

The Executive Councillor thanked the officer for their report and noted that the number of comments which had been made showed how seriously the committee took the issue. Agreed that an updated report would be brought back to the committee in the future.

 

The Committee unanimously resolved to endorse the recommendation.

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendation.

 

Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.

Publication date: 04/05/2022

Date of decision: 15/03/2022