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Mayor's response to social housing problems called in

By Herald Express  |  Posted: June 28, 2012

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BAY councillors have criticised the mayor's response to a call for a crackdown on anti-social behaviour and poor 'bedsit' housing.

Cllrs Steve Darling, Julien Parrott, Ruth Pentney, Mark Pountney and Darren Cowell say Gordon Oliver's response is not robust or immediate enough to deal with the squalid conditions some residents are facing in private sector housing.

They have 'called in' his decision on recommendations to deal with the problem outlined in a lengthy report published last month.

The matter will go before the council's overview and scrutiny meeting on July 3.

Cllr Cowell said: "We want to give the mayor the opportunity to explain his reasons as a matter of urgency."

The mayor has been given a report by the overview and scrutiny board on anti-social behaviour and the private rented housing sector.

Among the recommendations are that funding should be set aside in the budget setting process and that targeted enforcement should be taken on rogue landlords and anti-social behaviour offenders.

The report also recommends additional licensing requirements are imposed for houses in multiple occupation as a matter of urgency.

But mayor Oliver, although supportive of the scheme, said the measures would be considered as part of the 'overall prioritisation of the budget'.

The issues were taken to a private meeting of the senior leadership board on June 12 where members supported the actions identified in the report.

But the recommendations were made 'having regard to current and emerging budget pressures'.

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  • NickoftheHill  |  July 01 2012, 9:42PM

    I am so pleased to share some common ground with "realityzone" because I also feel the legal system can be found wanting when it comes to supporting local communities at the mercy of challenging individuals. However, living in a problem area myself, I know the scenerios "realityzone" describes in his/her last post are examples primarily linked to those properties run by "rogue" Landlords. For example, as previously discussed, my neighbour is an excellent example of a good Landlord and doesn't have these problems because he gives all prospective tenants a robust interview, offers sound tenancy agreements and visits his premises frequently and is willing to attend should any problem occur. A tenant wanting to be nuisence simply won't go there. The Landlords who are driven by greed, with no moral responsibility, are those who take anyone in, offer poor standards of accommodation and abuse their power to invite trouble to our local communities. It is these reckless people that we need the regulation for, to make them sit up and become accountable like my neighbour. As I said I take "realityzones" points of view, but from someone who knows what it's like living in Torquay centre and the reality of the issues we face, I am sorry but "realityzone" has not been able to change my mind. We urgently need the standards being proposed. They are essential for the well-being and future of Torquay. If we only had good Landlords then I would agree that the scheme wouldn't be needed. By the way, I don't know why there are three identical posts from me on this thread. I think the site dislikes links for some reason. I wasn't being greedy for space....

  • realityzone  |  July 01 2012, 9:13AM

    Nick I have no doubt that, on some occasions the police do turn out and arrest a troublesome tenant. That is anecdotal. The fact remains that for the most part they do not, so we constantly read of sad cases where someone has been harassed to the point of suicide because the law relating to "causing alarm harassment and distress"is being sidelined by the very force that is meant to respond to it. On this site someone harassed by yobs has said " they ( the police ) just don't care" And lets not forget that, although the attention is all on tenants who are having these problems, it applies equally to owner occupying residents, and some of the trouble makes are not necessarily tenants some of them are owner occupiers and in those cases there is no landlord to use as a scapegoat. There is enough existing legislation to deal with these problems, that which relates to landlords is better applied by some local authorities than others, but not all local authorities have the same staffing or resources. Local authorities have more responsibility of course for social housing that they own With regard to evictions, you set out the theory as noted by Shelter, but what happens in practice. In the vast majority of cases if the tenant says " I aint moving till the bailiffs arrive" ( i.e. the process takes its full course ) it can be and often is months before the tenant is evicted. Then of course they can start the same mayhem at a new address. I am sorry to keep pressing the point, but the fact remains that a robust response from the criminal justice system is the only full and effective answer to this problem both for the good tenants and for owner occupiers who suffer from it as well. I come back to my main thrust which is that if the police and the courts dealt with so called " anti social behavior " fully and effectively, which, as your example shows, they can do, we would not be having this debate.

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  • NickoftheHill  |  June 30 2012, 9:39PM

    Thanks for the quick response "realityzone" My point about the comparison between Pub and Housing Landlords was around equal standards for accountability in the way they run or manage their businesses rather than how the law applies or the Police may respond to individual incidents In my area, I have seen the Police attend private rented housing when a tenant has become a threat to others in the property or caused criminal damage. They will be arrested if their behaviour warrants it. Also, I have witnessed "out of control tenants" detained under the mental health act where appropriate. Landlords can now make use of Starter tenancies that can assist when a tenant causes a problem and they need to be evicted with the least amount of fuss. A brief description from Shelter "A Landlord or housing association can apply to the court to evict a tenant, but it has to give a warning notice, called a notice of seeking possession. It normally has to give two weeks' or two months' notice of going to court, depending on the reasons for the proposed eviction. The only exception is if the Landlord or housing association wants to evict a tenant because it considers they have been involved in serious nuisance, antisocial behaviour, or domestic abuse. In such circumstances, it may not have to give the tenant any notice at all". I think "realityzone" has stated their opinion very well, but I challenge their view that people in favour of positive action are "subject to uninformed prejudice" To that end I recommend reading the link about Newham Council who are to be congratulated for their stance in tackling similar problems: http://tinyurl.com/7qa22pm If this link doesn't work there's one on our facebook page - Melville Hill

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  • NickoftheHill  |  June 30 2012, 9:35PM

    Thanks for the quick response "realityzone" My point about the comparison between Pub and Housing Landlords was around equal standards for accountabilty in the way they run or manage their businesses rather than how the law applies or the Police may respond to individual incidents In my area, I have seen the Police attend private rented housing when a tenant has become a threat to others in the property or caused criminal damage. They will be arrested if their behaviour warrants it. Also, I have witnessed "out of control tenants" detained under the mental health act where appropriate. Landlords can now make use of Starter tenancies that can assist when a tenant causes a problem and they need to be evicted with the least amount of fuss. A brief description from Shelter "A Landlord or housing association can apply to the court to evict a tenant, but it has to give a warning notice, called a notice of seeking possession. It normally has to give two weeks' or two months' notice of going to court, depending on the reasons for the proposed eviction. The only exception is if the Landlord or housing association wants to evict a tenant because it considers they have been involved in serious nuisance, antisocial behaviour, or domestic abuse. In such circumstances, it may not have to give the tenant any notice at all". I think realityzone has stated their opinion very well, but I challenge their view that people in favour of positive action are "subject to uninformed prejudice" To that end I recommend reading the link about Newham Council who are to be congratulated for their stance in tackling similar problems: http://tinyurl.com/7m9vmhz​borough-wide-licensing-to-tackl​e-rogue-landlords/​6522497.article

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  • NickoftheHill  |  June 30 2012, 9:28PM

    Thanks for the quick response "realityzone" My point about the comparison between Pub and Housing Landlords was around equal standards for accountabilty in the way they run or manage their businesses rather than how the law applies or the Police may respond to individual incidents In my area, I have seen the Police attend private rented housing when a tenant has become a threat to others in the property or caused criminal damage. They will be arrested if their behaviour warrants it. Also, I have witnessed "out of control tenants" detained under the mental health act where appropriate. Landlords can now make use of Starter tenancies that can assist when a tenant causes a problem and they need to be evicted with the least amount of fuss. A brief description from Shelter "A Landlord or housing association can apply to the court to evict a tenant, but it has to give a warning notice, called a notice of seeking possession. It normally has to give two weeks' or two months' notice of going to court, depending on the reasons for the proposed eviction. The only exception is if the Landlord or housing association wants to evict a tenant because it considers they have been involved in serious nuisance, antisocial behaviour, or domestic abuse. In such circumstances, it may not have to give the tenant any notice at all". I think realityzone has stated their opinion very well, but I challenge their view that people in favour of positive action are "subject to uninformed prejudice" To that end I recommend reading the link about Newham Council who are to be congratulated for their stance in tackling similar problems: http://tinyurl.com/7m9vmhz​borough-wide-licensing-to-tackl​e-rogue-landlords/​6522497.article

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  • realityzone  |  June 30 2012, 6:31PM

    Nick of the Hill your comparison is nonsense. A Pub landlord can instantly have someone ejected from his premises and call on the Police to assist him if needed. He can ban people from re entering his premises. If it took him him up to five months to have someone removed from the four ale bar things would be rather different. No I am not a Landlord, just trying to introduce some balance here where there is so much uninformed prejudice.

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  • NickoftheHill  |  June 30 2012, 5:16PM

    Spindleshanks - You've hit the nail on the head, Well done! Question for realityzone "If a pub Landlord had customers that caused havoc in a particular area would you be telling us that this type of Landlord can't be held responsible for antisocial behaviour generating from their business? Would you also go as far as to suggest that we should bin the current Licensing laws to bring parity between Housing and Pub Landlords? If your answer is no, then why should pub Landlords have regulation and not housing ones? Or is it because you, "REALITY ZONE" are a private or social Landlord yourself and are simply thinking of Number 1? My arguement is simple, why shouldn't housing Landlords not be held to account for the way they run their business? After all they are getting paid, mostly by the tax payer for the service they provide? Landlords have incredible power over local communities and the image of Torbay. They choose who they give a tenancy to, but too often feel safe, because they don't live close enough to suffer from the behaviour their tenants are causing and know they can't be made responsible. They send out this message "We don't give a damn about Torbay or the people who live here" Neighbours owing adjacent properties often don't know how to contact an absent Landlord to alert them to problems taking place, which is not acceptable. This becomes an issue when tenants cause anti social behaviour or the building itself falls in to a bad state of repair affecting another persons property. I live in an area that is full of sub divided houses and private lets. Some are horrendous with broken windows, water leaks and sub standard housing supporting really vulnerable people. Twice in the past year I have seen people with disabilites forced to leave their homes when the Landlord puts someone else in the same building with challenging behaviour, but doesn't do anything to help their existing tenants. Torquay town centre is full to overload with people in poverty and/or addictive lifestyles. However, I live next door to a sub divided house rented out to different people, but the Landlord is brilliant. He looks after his property and I have his telephone number which I can use if I am worried about anything. In six years I have called him twice and both times he has quickly sorted the problems out. Some of his tenants have been there for years because they trust him, he keeps their homes maintained in good order and respects them. Tenants, in my view become anti social if they are allowed to. A good Landlord has proper legal agreements, rules and regulations to protect everyone from the start. If a tenant turns up to view a property and is looking for a place to open a drug den, have rowdy parties or cause mayhem then they will choose the place where a rogue Landlord holds power. If there aren't any bad Landlords because of proper regulation as many Torbay Councillors now want, then perhaps our town will become less attractive for people seeking certain life styles and they will move on. I would go as far to say that if we get these regulations in place then our town has a much better chance of getting itself out of the mess it is in. On a personal note I applaud, Darren Cowell, a local Councillor who faces up to the issues and wants to bring about change for the better. He lives in the real Torbay, unlike a few we could mention.

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  • 1sagalout  |  June 28 2012, 9:07PM

    There is another side to this, and that is the landlords providing extremely poor accomodation yet taking taxpayers money for the rent. Question for Torbay Council : When did you get rid of the officer who used to inspect every single flat and house to ensure they were fit for purpose and worth the rent, before a penny was paid out? Reinstate this post immediately. It will cut out so many problems as well as giving the council a chance to get into properties to see that they comply with all regulations.

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  • Vonduch  |  June 28 2012, 5:25PM

    Let the long cut n paste replies begin...

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  • realityzone  |  June 28 2012, 4:55PM

    DarrenCowell is obviously well intentioned in trying to help those who are living near to properties with really bad tenants in them, and all power to his elbow. but, I cannot help noticing that he does not address the fact that landlords, be they good ones ( the majority ) or bad ones, have no powers which enable them to regulate the conduct of people who are tenants. I repeat, their only sanction on discovering that they have a tenant who is causing grief to the neighbours is to give them notice to quit. This could take months because the law, the CAB, Shelter et al, are all there to ensure that tenants can stay in a property - if they wish - for months after a notice to quit, right up until the moment when the bailiffs arrive. I would like to hear where Mr Cowell proposes these bad tenants go if the landlord fights to successfully evict them. Who are they gong to live next to then? Will Mr Cowell be there to repeat the whole process again? He says that the cost of going on as we are (police, officer time, Tor2 ) outweighs the cost of regulating landlords. He cannot be seriously suggesting that once the landlord has received notices under new legislation and bad tenents have been moved from that house or neighbourhood, the police, the officers and Tor2 will never hear about them again ? Come on, get real, its the bad behaviour of the tenants themselves that is not being addressed by the law as things stand

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