ladder housing

23 Aug 23

A London council that just days ago threatened private landlords with unlimited fines and “have control of their properties removed” has been accused of severe maladministration.

The Housing Ombudsman – who presides over social housing – has slammed Newham’s Labour controlled council over its handling of a damp and mould case, which took over three years to resolve. 

Said Phil Turtle, compliance director with Landlord Licensing & Defence, “unlike the unlimited fines threatened to landlords by this rogue council, they suffered only a slap on the wrist and given 28 days to round up £300 from the petty cash to ‘compensate’ the tenant.”

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, says: There were significant failings throughout this case which left the resident living with damp and mould for an unreasonable amount of time.

“On multiple occasions throughout the course of the complaint, a lack of proactive action and poor communication, both with the resident and internally, contributed to significant delays.

“Despite repeated issues with communications from its repairs team, the landlord [Newham council] did not change its approach and take ownership of the resolution of the issues. Whilst there were severe delays to the repairs, the landlord also took too long to arrange temporary accommodation and to respond to the resident about his damaged belongings.

“I welcome the landlord’s response to the lessons from this report and its extensive efforts to put in place a stronger and more proactive approach to addressing damp and mould.”

The irony is that very recently Newham council sent a threatening reminder to private landlords in the form of a press statement saying they had only days to abide by a new licensing scheme.

If they did not apply for a mandatory Selective Licence by the end of this month they were told they would “risk an unlimited fine or having control of properties taken away.”

Newham’s latest Selective Licensing scheme started on June 1 and the council now says it will be stepping up its inspection and enforcement visits throughout September “to find and take action against unlicensed properties.”

Newham’s last private licensing scheme, which expired at the end of February 2023, saw 42,000 properties licensed – of which 70 per cent were subject to officer visits or audits.

From 2018 until July 2023, more than 2,620 breach of licence investigations were conducted and 387 financial penalty final notices were issued, with fines between £5,000 and £30,000.

A total of 6,447 enforcement letters were sent.

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