Dispute Resolution

Enforcement Action Against Landlords image

Enforcement Action Against Landlords

7th May 2015
  1. Introduction

The Housing Act 2004 places a statutory duty upon local authorities to keep housing conditions under review.  Local authorities use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”) to assess the condition of such residential premises.  It is a risk assessment type system, which leads to a hazard(s) being given a numerical score based upon a statutory formula which then correlates to a banding system.  A hazard which falls within Bands A, B or C is a Category 1 hazard, and a hazard falling within Bands D to J is a Category 2 hazard.  When a Category 1 hazard is found then the local authority is under a duty to take enforcement action, whilst the local authority has a discretion to take action regarding a Category 2 hazard.

  1. Determining what action should be taken

In my experience a local authority will usually have a policy or procedure that it follows in order to try and be consistent and fair in determining what if any action is to be taken once it has been established that a hazard(s) exists.

Usually a Housing Inspector will undertake a full survey of a property to identify the nature and extent of all hazards present.  Following this survey the authority will then write to the landlord to inform him/her of the hazards identified and of any work recommended.

If the hazard(s) provides a non-imminent risk to the health and safety to the occupants, there is no history of non-compliance by the landlord, the tenant(s) is not particularly vulnerable and the landlord can agree a timetable of agreed work then usually the local authority will allow the landlord a reasonable period of time within which to remedy the hazard(s) before taking an enforcement option (see below).  If there is an imminent risk to the health and safety of the occupant, there are vulnerable occupants, a landlord with a history of non-compliance, a landlord refusing to agree or act upon a reasonable timetable of remedial work, then these are all factors which might persuade the authority to go straight to an enforcement option rather than by trying to get the landlord to resolve matters through correspondence.

If a landlord is given a chance to remedy the hazard(s) before an enforcement option is taken, then the local authority will also usually monitor the progress of the works to ensure that they are completed properly and in a timely manner.  If there are any delays or the work is unacceptable, the local authority may then decide to go to an enforcement option after all.

  1. Enforcement Options

Action                                           Category 1                   Category 2

No Action                                                No                                Yes

Hazard Awareness Notice                    Yes                               Yes

Improvement Notice                            Yes                               Yes

Prohibition Order                                  Yes                               Yes

Emergency Remedial Action                Yes                               No

Emergency Prohibition Order             Yes                                No

Demolition Order                                   Yes    In certain circumstances

Clearance Order                                     Yes    In certain circumstances

The local authority cannot take more than one of these actions available at any one time to address the hazard (unless it is an emergency action) but can vary the action required if one of the actions taken has not proved successful.

a) Hazard Awareness Notice

This is not a notice actually requiring works, but formally recording one or more of the hazards that exist.  In effect this is just putting the landlord on notice of a hazard that may need to be remedied in the future.

b) Improvement Notice

This is a notice requiring remedial action to mitigate one or more hazards.  The action must as a minimum remove the Category 1 hazard, but may extend beyond this and the notice may specify timescales for completion.  This notice applies where there is no imminent risk of serious harm, where the works required are practicable and there is a vulnerable occupier present.

c) Prohibition Order

This prohibits the use of all or part of the premises, may allow agreed use, and may specify occupancy numbers.

d) Emergency Remedial Action

There must be an imminent risk of serious harm involving a Category 1 hazard.  This is limited to the works immediately necessary to minimise the imminent risk.

e) Emergency Prohibition Order

There must be an imminent risk of serious harm involving a Category 1 hazard.  This prohibits the use of all or part of the premises and has immediate effect.  This is likely to be used where Emergency Remedial Action is not practicable.

f) Demolition Order

This is usually very rare as it is only appropriate where works are impracticable and/or excess costs are involved and demolition would not have an adverse effect on neighbouring properties.

g) Clearance Area

This is extremely unlikely to be applied to single dwellings locally.

  1. Factors to be taken into account when choosing an enforcement option

Again I would have thought that the local authority would have a list of factors in its policy, but I would expect that they would include some or all of the following:-

  • The significant of the hazard(s), i.e. the rating score and Band.
  • The extent and location of the hazard(s) within the premises.
  • The range of hazard(s) identified within the premises.
  • Whether the local authority is under a duty or has a discretion to take formal action in respect of the hazard(s) identified.
  • The hazard(s) is not considered sufficiently serious to warrant a local land charge.
  • The level of risk posed to the current occupiers, including whether there is an imminent risk of serious harm.
  • The views and intentions of the occupier.
  • The risk of social exclusion of a vulnerable group or individual.
  • The availability of alternative accommodation.
  • The views and intentions of the landlord
  • The compliance record of the landlord.
  • Whether the chosen option is practical, reasonable and proportionate in reducing the hazard(s) to an acceptable level.
  • The building is listed or located within a conservation area.
  • The potential for alternative use of the premises or site.
  • The physical impact on adjoining buildings.
  • The longer term viability of the premises and area.
  • The impact on the local community and on the appearance of the local area.
  • The extent of hazard(s) within neighbouring premises and the general condition of the neighbourhood.
  • Availability of alternative housing for current occupants.
  • Likely demand for accommodation if the hazard(s) were remedied.
  • Prospective use of the site if cleared.

In general the local authority should target its enforcement action at more significant risks and of course that action should be proportionate.

In respect of Category 2 hazard(s) the local authority might exercise its discretion to take enforcement action based upon the following factors:-

  • The higher the Band, e.g. Band D, the more likely the need for action.
  • Whether the number of Category 2 hazard(s) combine to create a more serious situation.
  • The potential for the Category 2 hazard to become a Category 1 hazard within say 2 years.
  • Whether the Council will be taking action to address Category 1 or Category 2 (Band E) hazards at the same time.
  • Whether the property falls within a wider regeneration scheme.
  • Whether a current occupier is within the vulnerable group.

Section 8 of the Act requires that notices and orders have a “Statement of Reasons”.  This statement should include why one type of enforcement action was taken rather than the other options available.

  1. My personal experiences

Usually the local authority will contact the landlord about a hazard(s) and give the landlord a reasonable chance to rectify the hazard(s) within a reasonable period of time provided there has been no history of non compliance with that particular landlord or property and/or there is not an imminent risk of danger to vulnerable occupants.  Hence a landlord that cooperates and arranges appropriate remedial action within a reasonable period of time will usually avoid being on the wrong end of a formal enforcement option.  Usually the local authority will use the enforcement system as a “stick to beat” the landlord with if he/she does not cooperate.

Only rarely, e.g. in cases of landlords with a history of non compliance, imminent risk of danger to vulnerable occupants, will the local authority proceed directly to an enforcement option.

If you are either a landlord or a tenant and need advice about any matter relating to maintenance or upkeep of rented residential premises then please contact Gemma Mayer on 01775 72261, or email gemma.mayer@maplessolicitors.com or Daven Naghen on 01775 72261, or email daven.naghen@maplessolicitors.com or visit our offices/arrange an appointment at 23 New Road Spalding Lincolnshire PE11 1DH.

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Up until 1st September 2012 the law has always protected squatters – people who take up residence in empty homes. Under the old law the only option of homeowners who had their home taken over by squatters was to seek a civil Court Order to regain possession of their property which was both time consuming and expensive. For the first time however squatting is now a criminal offence.

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Should you require any further information regarding this or any other matter relating to residential property/tenancies then please contact our James Turner at james.turner@maplessolicitors.com or call the office on 01775 722261

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The long awaited Judgment from The Supreme Court on Overdraft Charges of banks arrived on 25th November.  Unfortunately the Court ruled that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) does not have the powers that it thought it had to scrutinise the fairness of bank charges.

In explaining his ruling, The Supreme Court’s President Lord Phillips said that bank customers agreed to pay overdraft charges as part of the price of having a current account, so they fell outside the scope of the protection of the 1999 Consumer Contract Regulations.

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For further details please contact a member of our Wills and Probate Department:-

Jane Mawer- jane.mawer@maplessolicitors.com
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Gemma Mayer LLB

"I would highly recommend Maples Solicitors, especially Gemma Mayer, for any conveyancing work. The level of support and professionalism was excellent at all times. I also felt if I needed to ask or clarify anything that it was not an issue. Buying and selling a house is stressful enough, but Gemma helped me through it step by step."

Anita Toal LLB BA

"I think you are brilliant. You can use my comments above. You are efficient, friendly and quite clearly very good at what you do. Mainly you don’t leave people hanging around too long for." "So easy to talk to her and she understood what I wanted. She put me at ease and I cant thank her enough"

James Turner BA

James Turner was extremely helpful with our buying process. Everything went smoothly. We are very happy with the level of professionalism demonstrated by the office. Highly recommended solicitors. Will definitely do business with them again.

Daven Naghen LLB

"Daven provided an excellent service, from attending the first interview with me to the final court appearance. He filled me full of confidence that he would defend me to which he did and come out with an excellent outcome in view of my position that I had put myself in."

Faye Blair LLB

Faye was excellent, sensitive and acted very well to the time constraints we faced. Great service and dealt with compassion at such sad times made the process less painful very professional.

Jamie Dobbs ACILEx

Over the last forty years I have cause to deal with many law firms both in a personal and professional capacity, including some ‘top’ London Companies. In all of those dealings I have never found anyone as proactive and so willing to offer help and advice as Jamie Dobbs. During the last two years Jamie guided my parents through the completion of Lasting Powers of Attorney. Helped myself with the use of the LPA and recently dealing with Probate and Estate Administration following their death.

Mike Pepper MA

Mike Pepper gave us excellent advice. He was always most helpful and accommodating giving lucid explanations every step of the way. Thank you Mike.

Donna Sandison FCILEx

Donna has been helpful and professional every step of the way during the process. Always on hand to answer any queries and totally professional and friendly at all times.