Councillor G.F. Knight, Executive Member for Community Safety presented a report that sought amendments to the Officer Scheme of Delegation contained within the Council’s Constitution in relation to Section 4 (Environmental Health) and Section 5 (Housing and other Residential Accommodation).
The proposed changes would allow the Scheme to be updated to include some new legislation and to amend the delegation for one function, so that all necessary enforcement powers available under the legislation could be utilised.
The Executive Member emphasised the importance of ensuring the clarity of officer delegations to ensure that the enforcement actions that are taken through this process can be clearly shown to be appropriately authorised.
The addition to the Scheme of Delegation related to the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which came into force in April 2017 and introduced a range of measures, intended to crack down on ‘rogue landlords’ operating in the private rented sector. The Act allowed local housing authorities to impose a civil financial penalty of up to £30,000 on an individual or organisation as an alternative to prosecution for certain offences under the Housing Act 2004, as well as extending the situations where rent repayment orders may be imposed. A rent repayment order required a landlord to repay a specified amount of rent, upon application when the landlord had committed certain specified offences.
All income received from civil penalties or rent repayment orders could be retained by the local authority, provided that it was used to further the local authority’s statutory functions in relation to their enforcement activities covering the private rented sector.
It was also proposed to make additions to the Scheme of Delegation as a result of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. This legislation imposed requirements on landlords to install and maintain in working order smoke alarms and in some circumstances, carbon monoxide alarms. These requirements were enforced by local authorities who could impose a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord failed to comply with a remedial notice.
The final proposed addition to the Scheme related to the Private Water Supplies Regulations 2016, which concerned the regulation of private water supplies, for which local authorities had a number of statutory duties.
The Executive was also requested to change the Head of Service that was currently delegated with the function to ‘Exercise the Council’s powers, duties and functions in relation to appeals to the Residential Property Tribunal’, from the Head of Service with responsibility for Housing, to the Head of Service with responsibility for Environmental Health, which was where the function was dealt with. It was also recommended that the wording be amended from ‘Residential Property Tribunal’ to ‘First-tier Tribunal’, which was the current name for this body.
Members noted the importance of putting in place appropriate delegations so that Officers could respond swiftly to circumstances that arise without delay. In supporting the recommendations Members addressed the importance of some of the actions for the health and well being of the Borough’s residents. To this end Members asked if Officers could give consideration to how the following matters might be addressed in liaison with the Executive Member for Community Safety:
• How to strengthen the enforcement of ensuring that landlords had working smoke and carbon monoxide (including for gas boilers) alarms fitted in properties managed by both private and social landlords;
• How to provide a mechanism for tenants to express concerns about ‘rogue landlords’ without fear of repercussions and whether a list of reputable landlords could be established;
• Building on the existing communication channels with landlords and agencies to encourage the implementation of the safety requirements; and
• Providing quality assurance guidance to promote high standards of work.
RESOLVED that the additions and an amendment to the Officer Scheme of Delegation contained within the Council’s Constitution be approved, as set out in Annex 1 of the report presented to the Executive in relation to Section 4 (Environmental Health) and Section 5 (Housing and other Residential Accommodation).
Reasons for decision: The Officer Scheme of Delegation needs to be kept up-to-date and for that purpose it is necessary to add some newly introduced legislation and to amend the delegation for one function, to ensure that all necessary enforcement powers available under the legislation could be utilised.
Alternative options: To make amendments to the proposed delegations or to not agree to the recommended changes to the Scheme of Delegation.