23 Feb 2021
In what we see daily as nonsense from council housing enforcement officers, Salford City Council has today exceled itself.
The situation is a bog standard 2-up 2-down terrace of which there are thousands in Salford.
Because it is inhabited by three non-related persons sharing it is an HMO and comes under the council’s HMO Additional Licensing revenue generating scheme.
Despite knowing that improvement works are underway and being supervised by this firm the council decided to do a ‘raid’ under the pretext of a council tax issue. Based on seeing work in progress (and indeed some work the contractor had done wrong that our inspector, booked for three days hence, would have made them correct) they decided that they mut do a full inspection the very next day.
Be in no doubt that this inspection was not for the safety of the tenants, instead to give the ‘enforcement’ officers the opportunity to levy their usual £30,000 Civil Penalty fine for ‘breach’ under Regulation 4 of the HMO Management (England) Regulations 2006.
One of the things they noted was that because the gas meter and shut-off were inside a locked bedroom (ground floor front) it was not accessible in an emergency and therefore, the meter must be moved.
Of course, as anyone who has ever had dealings with the utility companies knows, such a request to move a meter can take anything from 4 to 18 months.
Interestingly, the problem only arose because at another almost identical property the same Salford City Council had instructed the landlord that they MUST fit locks to bedroom door even though the tenants didn’t want them and there is no legislation or regulation to require them.
So, in fact the council created the hazard where none had existed previously. Oddly when a council created a hazard for which a landlord would be fined £29,000, the officer not only doesn’t get fined they don’t even get told off.
So, realising that a problem had been created by the council and they were now angling to prosecute or fine the landlord for their own failings, our certified Fire Risk Assessor created an instant solution via the placement of a key in a Break Glass box above the door, to be there until the utility company could do its works.
But oh no, the aggressive council enforcement officer, immediately comes back stating that the break glass with key creates a Hazard of “Entry by Intruders” and must be “removed ASAP.” ASAP is not a date in a calendar when I last looked!
By saying that the break glass with key box must be removed ASAP and knowing as one must assume that council ‘experts’ do know that it will take MONTHS for the utility company to move the meter and gas isolation valve for the landlord, the council officer is in fact wittingly ordering the landlord to reinstate the gas safety hazard and keep it as a hazard for many months to come.
And of course, if the council enforcement officer had understood the Housing Health and Safety Rating System properly, she would know that “Hazard 12 Entry by intruders” only applies to break-ins from the outside and is of no relevance whatever to internal bedroom doors in a small HMO! But by the instruction to remove the break glass box she was saying that this bogus hazard was more important than the very real gas explosion and fire risk hazard they wanted re-instated!
Not surprisingly, Landlord Licensing & Defence housing safety and fire risk experts did not agree.
So dangerous was this incorrect advice that we raised the issue with the individual’s manager.
So disinterested was the manager in tenant safety that he made no effort to investigate the serious complaint about “instructions to a landlord liable to cause mortal danger to tenants” under council process, but simply gave the complaint to the complained-about officer to reply. The reply was “oh you didn’t say it was a temporary solution”.
Frankly it makes no difference whether the solution was temporary or permanent. It provided a pragmatic solution to an observed hazard crated by Salford City Council telling the landlord that HMO bedrooms MUST have locks.
The Strategic Director managers Teflon-ing the response to the complaint back to the enforcement officer, she was able to totally ignore the issue of her advice creating a mortal danger hazard for the occupants.
At Landlord Licensing & Defence we see council housing and particularly enforcement officers giving incorrect advice and over-egging assessments on a daily basis in the pursuit of their well-established cash cow: Civil Penalty Fines from landlords.
It seems Councils and particularly their housing enforcement revenue generation operations are not accountable to anyone. Well they had their chance on this one. Now Landlord Licensing & Defence will hold them accountable in the media.
Just in case you didn’t know, not only do councils set their own housing rules, but they are also Police, Judge and Executioner, you couldn’t make this up, they get to keep all the fines they can raise. (We see fines of £50,000 to £100,000 per property dished out daily by these unaccountable Law Enforcing Officers). What could possibly go wrong?
And you thought Rotten Boroughs were something you learned about in school history class.