Agenda item

Housing Living Standards


In relation to the Housing Living Standards report included in the agenda, Debby Weller - Head of Housing Strategy & Policy, Michelle Greenidge – Private Sector Housing Manager, Mark Billings – Director of Housing and Gary Penticost – Director of Operational Assets were in attendance to answer Members’ questions. Members heard that all reported defects were identified by officers and photos taken.


Members sought clarification of the use of the word ‘adequate’ in relation to private sector housing, noting that some dwellings which passed scrutiny were far from acceptable. It was claimed that, in some cases, sub-standard accommodation had a valid gas safety certificate. Members enquired how private landlords could be made to adhere to the Council’s standards of accommodation.


In response to this, Members heard that a gas safety certificate was a legal requirement and checks had to be carried out on an annual basis. Old boilers did not necessarily need to be replaced if they were still working well. The Private Sector Housing Manager confirmed that a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) evaluation tool was used to identify hazards in a property – hazards were assessed against a set of criteria and, if they were not considered to be category 1 or 2 hazards, there was little the Council could legally do about them. At the request of Councillors, it was agreed that the Committee would be provided with a list of the 29 hazards against which properties were assessed. It was confirmed that gas operatives were required to appear on a list of Gas Safe registered operatives; the Council could ensure they were genuine by checking the list. As of 1 October 2022, landlords were also required to provide carbon dioxide detectors in their rented properties. Any landlords acting illegally were taking a huge risk, but little could be done about this unless a problem arose.


In reply to their questions, the Committee Members were informed that approximately 350 households in the Borough were currently in private temporary accommodation; about 100 of these dwellings had been inspected to date. It was not possible to visit every dwelling, but there was a new requirement for a contract with the local authority regarding standards. Members heard that the Council was part of a Pan-London programme ‘Setting the Standard’ which aimed to ensure bed & breakfasts and studio flats used by local authorities for nightly paid temporary accommodation met a decent level of quality and management standards. The Landlord Engagement Team also inspected family sized accommodation. It was important for the Council that temporary accommodation used was of a good standard.


Members enquired whether feedback from those in temporary accommodation was sought. It was confirmed that an officer contact was provided to enable people to report problems, but no feedback was collected at present. The Director of Housing agreed to explore ways in which this could be done.


With regards to Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs), Councillors were informed that these were generally required under building regulations for buildings over 6 storeys in height. The Government was moving towards a requirement for these, and the Committee endorsed this approach.


Members enquired how damp in houses let by the Council through housing associations could be reported. It was confirmed that the Private Sector Housing Team would be responsible for enforcing on this.


Noting that the team had carried out 300 inspections of properties under the Homes for Ukraine scheme between 1 April 2022 and 21 March 2023, Members enquired whether there would be extra capacity in the team to do more home inspections in the future. It was confirmed that this was not the case as the UK Government had provided funding for an extra officer to assist with the additional inspections at that time.


In response to further requests for clarification, Councillors heard that the Council did not write to all tenants who reported a problem at their accommodation. It was acknowledged that retaliatory evictions were a matter of concern, but these were very infrequent. It was agreed that more work could be done on the website to remind landlords of their responsibility to communicate with tenants.


Members sought clarity regarding the areas of greater population density mentioned on page 52 of the pack under item 38. It was confirmed that these figures were taken from national surveys and referred to dense areas in terms of population. It was noted that these areas tended to be less affluent, have more private rented dwellings etc – these factors coalesced to form greater issues and fed into areas where the Council had more activity.


At the request of the Committee, it was agreed that Councillors could have sight of both the ‘Spotlight’ report (mentioned on page 48 of the agenda pack) and the Council’s latest Damp and Mould leaflet (page 52).


In response to further questions from the Committee regarding the new damp, mould and condensation tracking system (page 50, item 37), Members were advised that the new system was used by the Council’s in-house repairs service. 115 new issues had been raised in February 2023.




1.    The Committee be provided with a list of the 29 hazards against which properties were assessed;

2.    The Director of Housing explore ways in which feedback from those in temporary accommodation could be sought;

3.    The Director of Housing explore ways in which the Council’s website could be amended to remind landlords of their responsibility to communicate with tenants;

4.    Councillors be provided with a copy of the ‘Spotlight’ report and the Council’s latest Damp and Mould leaflet; and

5.      The Committee noted the contents of the report and the actions being taken by officers.

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