To seek approval for adoption of the Housing Repairs and Fitness for Habitation Policy (report of the Portfolio Holder, Housing and Health enclosed).
Consideration was given to the report of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Health which sought approval for adoption of the Housing Repairs and Fitness for Habitation Policy.
Once approved, the policy would give a clear understanding, in terms of repairs and maintenance, as to what was expected of the Council as a landlord, and equally what was expected of the tenant in terms of looking after their home. The policy stated clearly the tenant’s responsibilities and rights, and enabled the Council to have a fair and consistent approach to repairing its stock.
Members considered the report, and the following issues arose:
· Where emergency accommodation was required, was it the Authority’s responsibility to find alternative housing whilst work was undertaken on the tenant’s home?
o Officers responded that if the property was uninhabitable, the tenant would be housed elsewhere. The responsibility lay with the Authority as landlord, not the insurance company.
· Was it the Authority’s policy to remove all carpets when a tenant left a property?
o Officers advised that if carpets were still in good order, the new tenant would be given the option to keep them.
· With regard to voids, would this policy and the tenancy handbook assist in preventing properties falling into a poor state in the first place, and thus affecting turnaround?
o Officers confirmed that the Housing Repairs Policy was supported by the tenancy handbook. The Authority was now in a strong position, with regard to recharges, to manage tenancies. It was anticipated that the new policy and the handbook would make tenancies easier to manage, and improve the position on voids. It was also stated that officers were working on a suite of policies around tenancies and estates which would assist with other tenancy issues. It was important that policies were in place so that the Authority would be in a strong position where there were legal challenges.
· Were there staff in place to monitor tenancies, to ensure that they did not deteriorate in the first place?
o Regular inspections of properties were now being undertaken, and contractors were being worked with. Whilst tougher action was being taken against those tenants that simply would not pay, the authority was also ensuring that those who were vulnerable and could not pay were being assisted where necessary.
· Members asked whether photographs were taken of the property when a tenancy ended.
o Officers confirmed that photographs were taken of properties when keys were handed back, and after any void work was undertaken.
· Members asked whether access could be gained when an officer presented at a property and there was no response.
o Most tenants would be aware of pre-arranged appointments. If they were not at home when officers called, a card would be posted through the door and the onus would be on the tenant to re-arrange an appointment. Currently, missed appointments were not charged for, but the new policy would be introducing charges in this respect. If there was a real emergency (e.g a gas leak), officers could force entry to the property if the tenant was not there, and any damage would be repaired afterwards. However, to date, entry to a property had never been forced.
· Members questioned what action could be undertaken with regard to overgrown gardens, and how it could be ascertained whether they were privately or council owned.
o Officers advised that enforcement could be taken, and that this was the same for both council and private properties. Policies now referred to the fact that non-compliance could result in police and/or criminal records.
· Members asked whether there was a programme of works for housing repairs and if so, whether these works were on-track.
o Officers responded that there was no list of properties showing at what stage of their life they are at, that a property asset review was being undertaken, and that there was a planned programme of works. The programme was generally up to date, although there had been a challenge in the current year with roofs. A few years ago, the lifespan of roofs had been extended, and the programme of works for them had therefore been delayed, although day to day repairs were still undertaken when required. Currently, demand was outweighed by the council’s ability to respond as there was a shortage of contractors available to undertake the work, and the amount of rain over the past few months had created additional demand.
· Members commented that the state of roofs was the most important issue to address, and the authority needed to ensure that there were enough contractors on hand to undertake works required. If this remained a problem, the Panel could consider addressing it as part of its Work Programme in the future.
· Officers stated that once approved, the policy would be available on the website, and that enforcement of the issues laid out within it could begin.
· Officers stated that this policy, and any other related policies would be added to the Policy Register. The new Housing Repairs Policy would replace the 2012 version.
That the Housing Repairs and Fitness for Habitation Policy be noted, and recommended to Cabinet for approval.