Councils could lose powers to clampdown on rogue landlords under new government reforms.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has slammed government plans to revoke local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes.
Since 2004, councils have had powers to regulate private landlords in areas of low housing demand or significant anti-social behaviour.
In March 2010, rules were relaxed granting councils greater powers.
Now, to avoid a ‘blanket licensing approach’, the government is wrestling back control and Coun Forbes argues this hinders the council’s ability to help residents.
“It is taking away our abilities as a local democracy. It makes it harder to tackle the problems in some areas of the city.
“Government has created an extra hurdle to jump before we can tackle the issue.
“Despite all of the talk around devolution, central government stripped away important powers from local councils. We have lost the ability to respond to residents.”
The government argue reforms will help councils focus their enforcement where it is needed most and stop good landlords being punished.
But the Labour leader of the council accused Whitehall of being influenced by the powerful private landlord lobby.
“Up to now local authorities have had the ability to introduce selective licensing successfully, wherever there has been a problem.
“Now the government has taken away that power and forced us to beg for the ability to do it. I can only assume government has been lobbied by the vested interests of private sector landlords.
“There are some really good private landlords but there are some terrible ones. Some privately rented properties end up becoming eyesores, and a blight on otherwise clean streets.
“It’s one of the things people consistently complain about and it is important we are able to licence these properties to ensure the safety of tenants.”
Bruce Haagensen, local representative for National Landlords Association, believes selective licensing has failed in the city.
“The NLA is fully behind efforts to improve the standard of housing in Newcastle and believe that selective licensing when carried out properly and fully resourced is a useful tool for councils to use.
“However this does not seem to be the case in Newcastle.
“The existing scheme has not achieved sustainable tenancies, improved prices or the reduced the number of empty houses and after consulting with interested parties (landlords, tenants, businesses and others in the community) it was found that over 60 per cent suggested there had been no change during the scheme; essentially the scheme has failed.”
The city currently has two selective licensing schemes in Benwell and Byker which have been running since September 2010 and March 2011 respectively.
Landlords have been hit with massive fines for failing to apply for the correct licences.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Apr 2015
> Yet another peril of living in rented accommodation…
A drink and drug-fuelled landlord and his friend have been jailed after savagely attacking a dad in a row over unpaid rent.
Peter Jones, 52, and Robert Angus, 48, pushed the victim to the ground before repeatedly kicking and stamping on him in his own front garden, knocking out three of his teeth.
The attack happened on August 29, when landlord Jones, who had taken a concoction of alcohol and drugs, turned up at a property in search of rent money with Angus.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Jones – who has eight previous convictions including for football hooliganism at Newcastle’s Central train station – and Angus, turned up at a couple’s home at Fairgreen Close, Sunderland, at about 9pm.
After being refused permission to enter the house by the woman, Angus then manhandled her at the front door.
He husband, who was upstairs with their eight-year-old son, then came to his wife’s aid by throwing a punch at one of the men before being dragged outside into the garden of the property and attacked.
Prosecutor Mr Bunch told the court:
“The victim was repeatedly kicked and punched and stamped on outside his home. Their eight-year-old son was present and witnessed some of the attack.
“There was heavy contact blood staining on both of the defendants shoes and scientists revealed that both men had taken part.
“Police were called and they attended scene. The defendants had then left the house, but returned an hour later after one had left behind a mobile phone.
“Police were notified by a neighbour and the men were arrested after showing clear signs they had been in a fight.
“Jones was found in possession of a white powder later found to be an amphetamine.”
The court was told that in police interviews, Jones, of Benfleet Avenue, Townend Farm, Sunderland, said he had consumed 10 pints of beer and some of the white powder and claimed that the tenants owed him £1,500 in rent.
Angus, of Colombo Road, Castletown, Sunderland, made no reply to police questioning.
Michael Bunch, added:
“The victim suffered a swollen and bloody nose and wounded left cheek and jaw. He also lost his front three upper teeth and now struggles to eat certain foods, as he has had a bridge fitted for support.
“He has also received cartilage damage to his upper left chest and now requires physiotherapy. The family have since moved from the property.”
In a statement read out in court the victim said:
“This was an unprovoked attack. They assaulted my wife and my son watched some of what happened.”
Defence barrister Thomas Laffey, defending Jones, said:
“He pleaded guilty at the plea and case management hearing so should be given full credit.
“He rented out the property where the incident occurred and his sister looked after it and collects the rent. The money simply began to not get paid, despite his sister sending texts stating what they owed. He admits that he made an extremely irresponsible decision by going to sort the matter out himself after consuming alcohol and drugs.
“He now resides with his current partner and her daughter, his main concern is that his partner won’t be able to manage the rent if he loses his liberty.”
Defence barrister David Callan, defending Angus, said:
“In general Mr Angus is not a man of violence.
“He went on an ill-considered venture which he did for his friend. He has worked all of his life and has had health problems including a heart attack, which left some brain damage.
“He is a 48-year-old man in poor health and and who pleaded guilty at the first plea and case management hearing.”
Judge Simon Hickey sentenced Jones to 18 months’ imprisonment and Angus to 15 months’ imprisonment for assault causing actual bodily harm.
Jones was also charged for possession of a Class B drug and both men were given restraining orders.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 06 Feb 2015
A private landlord who left a mother and her three young children, including a newborn baby, without central heating for almost six months over winter has been fined £1,000.
A court hearing was told that the property on Streatlam Road, in Darlington, was in such a poor state it put the health of the tenant and her children – aged eight, six and two months – at risk.
Darlington Borough Council private sector housing officials who visited the property in March last year following a complaint from the tenant, who had been unable to get the landlord to carry out repairs, found the central heating had been broken since October 2013, faulty light switches throughout the property, draughty windows and broken stair rails.
The landlord, Derbyshire-based Kieron Munnelly, pleaded guilty by post to a charge of failing to comply with a statutory notice issued by the council to make repairs to the property at a hearing at Darlington Magistrates Court this week.
The court heard that the council officers gave Munnelly “every opportunity” to make repairs to his property before issuing a statutory notice against him, but he failed to comply.
Magistrates fined Munnelly £1,000 for the breach and ordered him to pay £500 costs.
David Burrell, private sector housing manager for Darlington Borough Council, said: “Action was taken against a landlord who left his tenants over winter without adequate heating. The private sector housing team works hard to protect tenants and ensure that they are able to live in a safe and warm home.”
Councillor Chris McEwan, the council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said:
“It is shocking to hear that the health and wellbeing of a young family has been put at risk.
“The council has a duty to act where landlords have failed to provide safe living conditions for their tenants. While we always try to work with landlords and help them, action will be taken where they fail to adhere to legal requirements”.
Source – Northern Echo, 28 Jan 2015
A Tory MP worth £110million is raking in £625,000 a year from his hard-up tenants’ housing benefit – despite blasting the “something for nothing” welfare state.
Richard Benyon – Britain’s richest MP – runs his vast property empire from a mansion on his sprawling country pile.
But last night he was accused of cashing in off the back of the very handouts his party pledged to slash – as it emerged a string of other Tories were doing the same.
Just last month the MP, 53, said: “The average household spends £3,000 per year on the welfare state. This figure had been rising inexorably and unaffordably.”
Mr Benyon has also attacked the Labour Party over payments and said: “Labour want benefits to go up more than the earnings of people in work. It isn’t fair and we will not let them bring back their something for nothing culture.”
He is a director of the Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited, which owns most of the land and property linked to his family.
It got £625,964 in housing benefit from West Berkshire council last year, more than any other private landlord in the area.
Eileen Short, of Defend Council Housing, fumed: “How dare Richard Benyon lecture us about ‘something for nothing’ when he is living off the poorest and milking taxpayers all the way to the bank?
“It’s not tenants who gain from housing benefit, but some of the richest people in Britain. They get richer at our expense – and blame us while they’re at it.”
Mr Benyon is likely to pull in thousands of pounds more from properties in other areas, too, as his firm owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland and 300 houses in Hackney, East London.
His office refused to comment on the figures or confirm whether Englefield got more housing benefit from other councils. Buy-to-let landlords and property tycoons like him will bank a total of £9.2billion in housing benefit this year.
It costs more than £23 a week, or 29% more in housing benefit, for a council to house a tenant with a private landlord than with a housing association or social not-for-profit landlord, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mrs Short added: “It’s time we stopped greedy private landlords living off housing benefit. Instead of subsidising them, we ought to cut rents not benefits, and invest in housing that’s really affordable. Let’s get these people off our backs.”
Our investigation, with the GMB union, comes after it was revealed yesterday that UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous was making a fortune off migrant tenants on welfare – despite leader Nigel Farage calling for a ban on foreigners claiming the cash.
The millionaire pocketed £745,351 in housing benefit from occupants, who he admitted included immigrants.
Our probe also uncovered a number of other Tories and donors who also bagged cash through housing benefit tenants last year –
Baron Iliffe’s firm got £195,072 from West Berkshire council. His estate is worth an estimated £245million. He and his wife have donated £50,000 to the Tories.
Peer Lord Cavendish benefitted from £106,938 in housing welfare last year from Barrow council in Cumbria through his shareholding in Holker Estates.
The Earl of Cadogan, who has given £23,000 to the Tories, has received £116,400 in benefits from Kensington and Chelsea.
And MP Richard Drax’s 7,000-acre Morden Estate got £13,830 from Purbeck council, South Dorset, last year. A Morden spokesman said: “We don’t comment on these things.”
On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants, his family farms have also received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.
Once a year the multi-millionaire – whose great great grandad was PM Lord Salisbury – hands out food to poor families as part of a 16th century tradition. He recently came under fire for scrapping plans to dredge the Somerset Levels. He was also criticised for claiming poor families wasted too much food.
Our investigation is based on Freedom of Information Act requests made by the GMB union, which has many members who rely on social housing. There are 1.8 million households on the waiting list for council homes. Despite Government pledges to tackle the welfare bill, the annual cost hit £24billion this year.
The DWP said: “Housing benefit provides a meaningful safety net for people, whether they live in social housing or in private rental properties, and it’s sensible that both of these options are available to people.”
Source – Daily Mirror, 24 Feb 2014