Private sector housing

North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) has a duty to ensure private sector housing in its district meets the minimum standards for health and safety. The Council aims to educate, inform and encourage owners, landlords and managers of private residential properties to meet their legal responsibilities, and in doing so ensure occupants, tenants and others are not put at risk from substandard or dangerous living conditions. Where our residents are at risk the Council will take appropriate steps or enforcement action to make sure the necessary improvements are made. The powers available to enable the Council to do this are outlined in our Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy.

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Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy

In November 2018 our new Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy was finalised which tells you what you can expect from our officers carrying out enforcement in private homes; the amount charged where enforcement action is required and; the penalties which can be applied where the law has not been followed.

Why the Council carries out enforcement

The Council recognises the importance of the private sector in providing valuable, good quality accommodation and meeting housing need. The Council also recognises that the majority of properties are maintained to a good standard, however there are some landlords who neglect their responsibilities and put occupants, tenants and others at risk due to substandard, poor or dangerous conditions. The Council has a responsibility to deal with housing that puts the health and safety of those living there at risk.

What the Council can do to improve private sector housing standards

The Council is given powers to assess housing conditions and enforce minimum standards through a range of measures. Our initial approach is to provide clear, accessible advice and guidance to encourage compliance with all relevant regulatory requirements. Where we have provided information or a warning that a property does not meet a safe standard and the advice is ignored, the Council will look to take enforcement action to protect those at risk. The type of enforcement taken is always considered on a case by case basis, however our new policy will provide a foundation for understanding why and how those decisions are arrived at.

The enforcement options available to the Council

The primary assessment tool used to determine the level of risk to the health and safety of occupants is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004. The underlying principle of HHSRS is that any residential premises should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor. The Council will start from an advisory position to ensure compliance with legal requirements, which can then be followed by enforcement action where improvements are not secured and residents remain at risk of harm. The relevant persons will be informed of the factors considered in determining the type of enforcement action taken. The Council will make a reasonable charge for enforcement action, details of which can be found in the policy.

Options available for more serious cases

There are circumstances where non-compliance with the law can result in the Council taking more serious action, which includes prosecution, a civil penalty and carrying out works in default. Again, in deciding the course of action the Council deems necessary, it will have regard to a range of factors as outlined in the policy. 

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 amended the Housing Act 2004 to introduce the ability for Councils to seek to impose civil penalties on recalcitrant landlords and owners as an alternative to prosecution. NKDC’s new Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy provides information on what factors are considered when determining the level of civil penalty applied.

Powers used by the Council to improve housing standards

The legislation applying to private residential and private rented property is wide ranging and often complex, and the new policy looks to provide an overview for owners, landlords and mangers of the powers available to the Council. Some of the legislation applicable to the private rented sector allows for the Council to:

  • Licence houses in multiple occupation where a relevant property is occupied by 5 or more persons, forming 2 or more households sharing amenities;
  • Enforce the legal minimum standards for non-licensable HMOs to help mitigate risks to the occupants and ensure they are properly managed;
  • Apply to take over the management of an unlicensed and poorly managed HMO or an empty property in order to bring them back into use.
  • Investigate overcrowding of private rented accommodation;
  • Ensure compliance with the minimum energy efficiency regulations for private rented properties with an EPC rating of F or G;
  • Apply for rent to be repaid where a landlord has committed an applicable offence;
  • Take enforcement action where a landlord fails to comply with the smoke and carbon monoxide regulations;
  • Take action against a landlord for the illegal eviction and harassment of tenants;
  • Use enforcement powers appropriate in dealing with statutory nuisance, dangerous structures and filthy and verminous premises.
  • Use powers of entry to enable authorised officers to carry out statutory functions.