Local Authority insisting on trivial repairs?

Local Authority insisting on trivial repairs?

16:14 PM, 14th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago 36

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Hi Folks, Recently had a tenant run to environmental health after I told her I’m not willing to re-house her or lower the rent. Anyway, met the officer down there yesterday (after 3 days notice) to go through the place with the tenant to find that very little needs doing, as I suspected.

Anyway, opened my emails this morning to a long list of trivial items including that need to be carried out within 4 weeks, ’employ a competent roofer to re-align 2 slipped slates ‘, ‘ top up roof insulation to 270mm ‘, ‘ replace ground floor doors with sound solid timber constructed doors ‘.

Don’t get me wrong I do intend to have these works done but are the council acting within their jurisdiction given that the EPC is a D ( so why is he asking for loft insulation top up, especially in the middle of summer ? ), and by the tenants own admission, the roof is not leaking. The second he met me at the front door he mentioned that most of his inspections are HMO properties and he needed to check if fire escape windows were necessary? ( on a single occupancy 2 bedroom mid terrace).

I do wonder if sometimes these people just like to test how much they can throw their weight about. I mean, just say hypothetically, I point blank refused to top up loft insulation in a baking July heatwave, knowing that I have a valid D grade EPC.

Would the council be willing to fight something like this out in court?

Trapped Landlord



Comments

Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence

9:10 AM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Council officers are required to assess properties using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System HHSRS and if they attend a property they are required to look for all 29 Hazards https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/hhsrs-housing-health-and-safety-rating-system/

The requirement for doors means that the doors in place are likely to be egg-crate or otherwise inadequate at holding back fire for even a few minutes so they have judged the risk to life/limb to be too high should a fire occur.

The tiles issue they are duty bound to mention and summer is the best time for roof work!

Likewise the insulation has been required to be 270mm for almost as long as I can remember and when they find it substandard they have to tell you. The EPC is irrelevant in this regard.

You can either get the work done whilst they are writing to you informally or if you don’t they can and probably will issue an Improvement Notice (for which they charge £400 or so) which is formal enforcement and if the works are not then done they can prosecute you for a criminal offence or issue punative penalties.

While an Improvement Notice is in place you cannot use s21

At Landlord Licensing & Defence we fight councils over unwarranted enforcement, Improvement Notices and Civil Penalty Fines daily - but our advice here is to just do as they ask and be in their black book (of course they keep one!) on their “good landlord” list and not their “rogue landlord” list.

Because once you get on their rogue list they will plague you forever until they get a kill. It’s the nature of the beast. They are merciless once triggered - we see landlords’ entire businesses and mental health destroyed once the council get their teeth into a landlord.

So to the OP for your own and your tenant’s safety just do what needs to be done - don’t pick a fight you will not win.

Smartermind

9:11 AM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

You're looking at this from the wrong angle. It won't always be baking hot July, before long it will be freezing December! Better to top up the insulation now rather than waiting for the freezing weather.

Also are you willing to waste money on an expensive court fight when the remedy is relatively simple. The council has a bottomless pit to fund the court case.

Robert M View Profile

11:17 AM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

There are good (reasonable) council officers, but unfortunately there's also some not so good (incompetent or power crazed ar**holes) council officers.

Unfortunately, the HHSRS is one of those very vague sets of regulations which pretty much give council officers free reign to decide on hazards and level of risk (and thus the "scoring"), and this means that there is huge variation from one assessor to another.
I've attended a Chartered Institute of Environmental Health training course, and was astounded by the huge variation of scoring of hazards by the various council officers in attendance, and indeed by the extremely outdated figures used for assessing risk (many of the risk multiplier figures are based on fixtures and fittings, injuries, deaths, etc, from the 1970s! - for those who can remember lead paint, asbestos, open flue boilers, open fires, no central heating, etc, etc).
- The point is, that councils are the assessors (and assessments vary from one officer to another, and yet both are accepted as legally valid), they are also the enforcers, they are the specifiers of works, they are the prosecutors if you don't get the work done (and can also prosecute you even if you do the required works, as it was an "offence at the date of the first inspection"), they are the receivers of money from civil penalties, they are the receivers of money from issuing improvement notices. They are the judge, jury, and executioner.

As others have said, just get the works done, however trivial and petty you think the council are being, as they hold all the power and they can exercise it ruthlessly if they choose to do so.

Luke P

11:20 AM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence at 15/07/2022 - 09:10
All (ground floor) doors don’t need to be solid wood fire-resistant…!

Paul Essex View Profile

13:40 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

This is why we should all fear the 'annual house MOT' being driven by both anti-landlord groups and those claiming to represent us!

So, virtual no houses since the 1960s have been built with solid wood interior doors how could it possibly be down to an individual and definitely not independent council employee to insist on this?

If future will they, for example enforce the age guidelines for kitchens, bathrooms and floor coverings.

homemaker

15:00 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

The short answer is no they won't be willing to fight this in court. The risk of harm from 2 slipped slates is not significant nor is a slightly lower level of roof insulation. An email with a list of recommendations is not a method of formal enforcement, and even when formal action is taken it must comply with good enforcement principles - proportionality, transparency etc. If formal action is subsequently taken by means of improvement notices, for example, an appeal procedure is available. With regards to the response from Phil Tuttle which says there is a £400 charge for an improvement notice I don't believe this is correct. Local Authorities do have the power to charge for statutory Housing Act notices but I don't believe it is universal and in my experience where the notice is complied the charge is not applied.
I'd just thank the officer for his feedback to foster a professional relationship for the future and if there are any questionable recommendations ask for his reasons.

Michael Johnson - Amzac Estates View Profile

15:04 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Just from a landlords point of view I treat a visit from one of the officers as a free review and personally I would get the work done rapidly. You will put this awkward tenant on the back foot and if there is a next time at least the council wont have you as one of their non compliant landlords.
After this is all done and completed issue a rent increase notice.
Unfortunately this isn't the time to pick a fight you will defiantly lose.

Trapped Landlord

15:19 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence at 15/07/2022 - 09:10
As I mentioned, I intend having all of this work completed but at the same time, for future reference I think its good to know exactly where I stand going forward. I had no idea that they could insist on insulation being topped up , i.e. whats the point of having a valid epc ?, whats next, insisting the combi that has just been serviced and gas cert issued is swapped to a nice new model or external wall insulation being installed ?

Trapped Landlord

15:22 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Amzac Estates at 15/07/2022 - 15:04
Exactly , why waste my time and money on sending tradesmen out looking for work when you can let the council give you a free property appraisal. May even go further, swap the kitchen and bathroom whilst the existing tenant is in situ, ready for the new tenant next year.

Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence

15:28 PM, 15th July 2022, About 4 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 15/07/2022 - 11:20
Fires spread

People die or suffer life changing injuries

Landlord is up on Gross Negligence Manslaughter or ABH charge.

Defence: "I read somewhere doors didn't need to be fire resisting"

FIRE does not read regulations neither does highly poisonous SMOKE containing carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.

Most people die of the SMOKE not the fire.

Please read this https://bit.ly/t-fire to understand why we give this advice to landlords

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