VOLUNTARY ACCREDITATION DOES NOT WORK

The Environmental Health press recently carried a report that:

'Newham’s Mayor told a Commons select committee that voluntary accreditation of private landlords does not work.

Newham is the first council in the country to implement a pioneering scheme to license all private properties. The trail-blazing scheme came into force on 1 January this year.

About 15,000 landlords have so far signed up to the mandatory scheme, submitting around 28,500 applications for properties. That represents a compliance of nearly 75%. The council is now taking enforcement action against non-compliant landlords – who face fines of up to £20,000.

Before this scheme was introduced, the council ran a borough-wide voluntary initiative.

Addressing a Communities and Local Government Select Committee, Sir Robin spelt out the take-out rate for this. Less than 5%.

"We know voluntary accreditation does not work because we have tried it," he told the committee.

Sir Robin added after the hearing:  “Our mandatory scheme shows that Newham is leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law.

"We want to work with good landlords, they have nothing to fear. It’s the bad ones, the criminal landlords, that we’re after.

"We will never accept private sector tenants being directly exploited by landlords who force them to live in dangerous and unacceptable conditions. One bad house can drag down a whole street.

"All the evidence – and we have tried it extensively – is voluntary accreditation simply doesn’t work."

The council has consulted extensively with residents, stakeholders, private sector tenants, landlords and lettings agencies over the mandatory scheme. Seventy-four per cent of residents and 76 per cent of private tenants supported it.

The radical move comes after the borough announced the creation of a task force to combat ‘sheds with beds’. These are illegal ramshackle buildings built at the bottom of gardens which often house tenants living in appalling squalor, exploited by rogue landlords. In just seven wards, Newham’s enforcement team have investigated over 600 cases with over 500 ‘sheds with beds’ now closed.

The council is determined to stamp out crime and anti-social behaviour associated with bad housing.

Before the licensing scheme was introduced, Newham was responsible for nearly 10% of all housing enforcement cases in England. This will continue but the licensing scheme gives Newham additional powers to regulate property and tenancy management arrangements and stronger tools to tackle rogue landlords.

The scheme is backed by national housing charity Shelter and other councils are considering following Newham’s lead.

This pioneering initiative has already been successfully piloted in the borough’s Little Ilford Neighbourhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). The pilot scheme achieved 100% compliance following enforcement action against a small number of non-compliant landlords and a 75% drop in reported anti-social behaviour.

Kay Boycott, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: ‘We are delighted to hear that Newham Council has introduced this scheme, which will help protect vulnerable tenants from rogue landlords who are making their tenants’ lives hell.

"With a chronic shortage of social housing and more and more people being priced out of the housing market, renting is fast becoming the only option for thousands more Londoners. Our advice service for tenants in Newham sees people every day who are suffering at the hands of rogue landlords who are ignoring their responsibilities and wreaking havoc on tenants’ lives.

"We urge other local councils to follow Newham’s lead in sending a clear signal that enforcing the law against rogue landlords is a priority."'

[EHP, 21 April, 2013]