At the Governance Meeting this month we learnt of ongoing enforcement activities and also agreed some changes to the process to reduce the workload of the staff involved at PCC.
Three properties in Waverley Road (where the recent murder occurred) are getting a lot of attention. They have been used to house some of the most vulnerable tenants in the city. Unfortunately, the condition of the houses was poor - which in a way is understandable with these tenants, if they repeatedly break locks, where is the incentive to replace the damaged doors? Also and more importantly, the management of the properties was not of the required standard.
As a result, 32 tenants from these 3 properties will have been evicted by Christmas and the plan is to convert each into more manageable 2 bed flats. By next April, there will be a 50% reduction in the number of tenants in the 5 other properties owned by this particular landlord (who is not a PDPLA member).
Whilst all of this activity is obviously beneficial for local residents, we are concerned about where those evicted will go next. We have an ever reducing number of members willing to house this type of person and those that do, find it is a full time job helping them 'stay in the system" in order to get the benefits they need to stay housed - indeed, it is not unusual for some landlords to do the paperwork for their tenants and to take them to appointments in order to achieve this. There is a strong argument that this type of tenant should not be housed in the private sector, but as we see from the constant stream of requests from local charities and local and central government agencies, there is a dire shortage of housing for these tenants and we are increasingly being relied upon to provide a solution.
Also at the meeting the price increase for new licenses was discussed - increased to reflect the higher than expected workload in managing the licensing system and enforcing it, though for currently licensed landlords these increases are academic as you will have already paid until the end of the licence period.
Part of the reason for the price increase is the workload chasing landlords annually who fail to submit gas and electricity certificates and the like - the practice was that 3 reminder letters would be sent and then the licence would be revoked. As the additional reminders did not appear to significantly alter the outcome, it was agreed that licences would be revoked if necessary paperwork was not submitted after the 1st reminder had been sent. So please do make sure that if you have changed your contact details you have let Private Sector Housing at PCC know about it and if and when they send you a reminder, do make sure you respond otherwise you risk having your licence revoked, which means you will have to go through the licensing process anew and will need to pay the £430 (or more) licence fee for the remaining 2 years of the licensing period.
There was also some discussion about whether a follow on licensing scheme would be required when this one ends in 2018. On the assumption that this whole process has been successful, the rogues have been shut down and the majority of properties have been shown to be of the appropriate standard or brought up to that standard, it is hard to see why a follow on licensing scheme could be justified, but conversely with 2,000+ local landlords on the register it would be a shame for them all to drop out of contact and for some to let standards drop to the point where 5 years later we are talking about the need for a licensing scheme again.
The PDPLA"s position is that we support the concept of a register of landlords (low cost / limited bureaucracy) as contact and communications are important but we favour a voluntary accreditation / co-regulation approach based around CPD and the like thus freeing up PCC resources to focus on rogues and the worst properties and leaving the vast majority of 'good landlords" to self-manage their professional training and continuous update of skills.
Some facts and figures:
There are now 3,021 HMO"s identified of which 2,735 are so far licensed and the comparable figures for 257 properties are 162 and 127. Management by PCC of 26 properties owned by 7 landlords is currently underway in addition to the Waverley Road displacement activity. These properties are identified as being 'badly managed" or overcrowded or sub-standard and the landlords have failed to make the necessary improvements, so PCC have taken over management (known as 'Interim Management Orders") and as part of that process, they collect any monies due from tenants and use those funds to effect improvements and repairs and to cover the cost of management. Any monies left over are paid to the landlord but as you can imagine, this is often very little given the costs associated with managing properties such as these.
Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.