04 Mar 2022

Poor housing quality is a serious issue affecting the public health and mental health of the UK population, yet 18% of homes in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) fail the government’s decent homes standard.

Enforcement is a key part of improving housing, yet there is a lack of qualified and experienced housing enforcement officers, and many councils have lost experienced officers due to funding cuts.

With this is mind, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan via the Greater London Authority (GLA) housing team, the CIEH, and Middlesex University have collaborated on a new level five, 12-month housing enforcement qualification, ‘Private Sector Housing Interventions’. 

The course trains people with little or no housing experience in EH or PRS housing up to the standards necessary to carry out the duties of a PRS enforcement officer and tackle rogue landlords. While the course is only open to London councils, if successful it could be rolled out nationally. 

The mayor has been funding the programme but is also calling for the UK government to do more. Currently tenants can claim back a year’s worth of rent for the worst properties that pose risk of death or serious injury – the mayor wants this changed to two years. For Londoners paying average rent of £1,425, this could mean up to £34,000. The mayor also renewed his calls to be able to introduce rent controls in the capital.

“This new qualification will give councils across London the workforce and expertise to mediate disputes, enforce standards and crack down on the rogues.”

Khan said he wants to see “tougher penalties for rogue operators”. He added: “I also want to see boroughs empowered to stand up for tenants. 

“This new qualification will give councils across London the workforce and expertise to mediate disputes, enforce standards and crack down on the rogues who give the many honest operators in the sector a bad name.”

Dr Phil James, Chief Executive, CIEH said: “Unfortunately, there are currently not enough qualified Environmental Health Practitioners for local authorities to recruit. We have been working hard to change this, both through our public facing campaigns like #ChooseEnvironmentalHealth, where we have been generating new interest in the profession, and our call to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to create a national apprenticeships fund for local authorities, to help local areas fund the cost of training up more environmental health practitioners.”

Middlesex University offers a range of EH qualifications including a BSc – it is one of only a handful offering the apprenticeship BSc route – MSc, foundation level, and advanced private sector housing level CPD. A new EH housing handbook – Regulating the Privately Rented Housing Sector – will support the courses and is due out this month (March 2022). 

The first set of Middlesex students on the new course started in September 2021. Dr Alan Page, Associate Professor of Environmental and Public Health at Middlesex University said the course was a “substantial addition” supporting PRS regulation and that the university had a “long history” in training EHPs, and the course would “mirror” this specialist training. 

He added: “These students will add really able practitioners to London enforcement teams and thereby increase capacity to improve the sector and the life circumstances of tenants.”

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