03 Feb 2016

Housing and Planning

Licensing scheme that aims to improve housing standards is extended

A scheme that aims to improve housing standards and the management of privately rented properties in the city will be extended to include two more wards.
At last night’s Cabinet meeting, Mayor George Ferguson took the decision to expand the licensing scheme to include properties in Eastville and St George West.
Following the on-going success of the first pilot licensing scheme in the Stapleton Road area, the council held a consultation to establish whether it should consider extending this approach to the wards of St George West and Eastville.
These were identified as areas where there is a higher than city average level of private rented homes, and where housing standards are likely to be poor compared with the city as a whole.
The introduction of licensing schemes will help improve the conditions in these wards where, for the first time, the council will be pro-actively inspecting every privately rented home to ensure that it is up to standard.

The council will be working alongside voluntary organisations, the police and others to ensure that where other, non-housing problems, are identified they too can be followed up.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Our newly agreed Housing Strategy sets out the ambition that everyone in the city has access to safe and decent quality homes as we seek to address inequalities across the city.

“As we know all too well, poor housing can be extremely detrimental to individual and family well-being, and we must do everything we can to intervene and improve conditions for some of the city’s most vulnerable tenants.
“Unfortunately there are some areas of the city that suffer more than others from inadequate housing conditions and bad management, and we believe that licensing offers us the best option to tackle these issues. We have approached this in an incremental manner and now feel able to extend the scheme based on its success in Easton.”

The two wards will now be declared as areas where rented properties require a licence under Part 2 and Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004.
Landlords will be charged a fee for licensing their properties to cover the costs of the scheme.  A licence would normally last for five years and conditions would be attached to the licence to improve management practices and standards.
The licensing scheme has been running in the Stapleton Road area since 2013 and has made a significant difference to the quality and management of rented properties in that neighbourhood.

Advice and guidance on the necessary improvements required to ensure the property complies with licensing conditions is also offered. Where landlords do not meet the required condition standards, enforcement action may follow.
Councillor Brenda Massey, Assistant Mayor for People, said: “As the private rented sector continues to grow, it is important for us as a council to do whatever we can to help protect vulnerable tenants.
“We were incredibly pleased to have had such a high engagement with the consultation, which suggested that many private rented homes with very poor living conditions have not been brought to the attention of the council.

“We know that there are an awful lot of good landlords out there, but there are also those who would benefit from advice and training to help them understand their responsibilities.  And we won’t shy away from enforcement and prosecution in the worst cases of non-compliance with standards.

“We hope that the introduction of licensing to these two areas will help us to address both issues and take another step towards improving the quality of housing in the city.”