Durham County Council are proposing to introduce a selective licensing scheme across the county which would ensure good standards of private rental properties.
The licensing scheme means landlords would need to apply to the council for a licence and meet the criteria for it to be issued. It would apply to around 51,000 properties where there is low demand, significant anti-social behaviour, poor property conditions, or high levels of migration, deprivation or crime.
An increase in well-managed and maintained housing through the scheme is hoped to result in fewer empty properties, improve the health and wellbeing of tenants and reduce anti-social behaviour, while providing support and training to landlords.
Cllr Kevin Shaw, Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: "We want to ensure that all our residents across the county have the choice of safe and well-managed accommodation that maintains a high-quality private rented sector.
"Through the selective licensing scheme, we will be able to work closely with landlords to provide information, advice, guidance and tenancy support. We will also be able to work with tenants themselves to help improve the standards of housing and with our communities to reduce anti-social behaviour."
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Durham Community Action are supporting the CIC, Canney Communities, to undertake a Housing Needs Survey. We are seeking views on a proposed Project, a new build at a site in Canney Hill, Bishop Auckland. The scheme would be to create accessible housing to address the needs of disabled people and their families living in County Durham, but particularly Bishop Auckland. We are especially keen to prioritise the needs of young disabled people to live independently.
This survey will help provide us with essential guidance on the current housing opportunities and needs, helping the community to resist plans for development on inappropriate sites, but supporting development of the right type and in the right places.
If you would like to participate, please complete the survey via the link below.
For further information, please contact Durham Community Action – Tel: 01388 742040 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Department of Work and Pensions has written to housing associations to confirm the changes to the way Universal Credit is paid to social landlords.
The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed they are testing a new system to pay social landlords direct payments of benefit.
This would see landlords receiving money from the DWP at the same time the tenant receives their Universal Credit payment.
Third Party Deductions for outstanding arrears will still be channeled through the four-weekly Third-Party Creditor schedule.
The idea is that if the test is successful, it would be fully rolled out to all social landlords in early 2020.
Armed forces personnel, both serving and retired, can now access extra support through their social landlords, thanks to an outreach project in County Durham.
The Armed Forces Outreach Service (AFOS) is a local authority partnership which Durham County Council has been a part of since 2017. It was created to support servicemen and women, reservists, veterans and their families with issues such as housing, benefits, employment, finances and health and well-being.
Thanks to initial funding from the Armed Forces Community Covenant the council has now committed to continue to host two outreach workers to be based between the authority’s housing solutions team and the partners of Durham Key Options, which includes housing providers such as believe housing, Karbon Homes, Livin and North Star, until April 2020.
The outreach workers, who are ex-service personnel, work closely with clients to help them get access to the services they need. They carry out various duties, including conducting assessments and arranging meetings, all with the aim of helping individuals and families find support for many issues, such as financial concerns, health problems, and housing.
RAF veteran, Jeffery Davidson, served in the forces for 23 years. When his partner passed away a few years ago he was referred into the outreach service. The 61-year-old, from Brandon, said: “I have been in a very dark place since the death of my fiancé four years ago. However, with the help of AFOS giving me something to focus on and a belief in life, I now feel there is a life worth living, if just for my kids.”
Fifty-two-year-old Keith Hopkins, from Easington Village, spent 10 years serving in the Royal Artillery. He was feeling uneasy in a privately rented home due to some incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area.
Keith said: “I was referred to the Armed Forces Outreach Service by a housing provider. Steve of the Armed Forces Outreach Service and Janice of believe housing quickly found me a suitable property and I had moved in a fortnight later.
“I am now settled in a nice property in Easington Village and would like to thank all staff involved for their help.”
Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “No member of the armed forces community should ever face disadvantage and we have a good understanding of some of the barriers that the armed forces personnel and their families could face when trying to secure a home.
“We would like to encourage people to get in contact with our outreach service to find out more about what support is on offer.”
In the last 12 months, the service has helped over 100 former service personnel and their families in County Durham.
Referrals can be made either through a tenant’s social landlord (if with Karbon Homes, believe housing, Livin or North Star) and via Durham County Council’s housing advice line on 03000 268 000 or by emailing email@example.com
For more information visit https://www.durham.gov.uk/armedforces
People living in private rented property are being reminded of new legal protection measures.
The introduction of the Tenant Fees Act 2019 from Saturday 1 June will protect those who have an assured shorthold tenancy, who rent student accommodation and who have a licence to occupy housing.
Our trading standards team is raising awareness among members of the public who rent property as to their rights, whilst reiterating the legal obligations of landlords and property agents to their tenants.
Any new agreements entered into cannot require a tenant, or anyone acting on their behalf or guaranteeing their rent, to make certain payments in connection with the tenancy.
From Monday 1 June 2020, the requirements will apply to all pre-existing agreements.
Landlords and property agents cannot require tenants to enter into a contract with a third party or make a loan connected to the tenancy. A financial cap is also imposed in respect of some payments.
From Saturday 1 June 2019, for any new agreements entered into, the only payments that a tenant can be required to pay are:
A refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks' rent where the annual rent is below £50,000 or six weeks where above this.
A refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week's rent. Multiple deposits cannot be held from a prospective tenant for the same property at one time.
Where a tenant requests a change to their tenancy agreement, for example a change of person sharing, the landlord or agent can charge up to £50 in fees to amend the agreement, or a higher fee if this can be justified as being a reasonable cost incurred.
Payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence or council tax.
A default fee for late payment of rent or replacement of a lost key/security device where required under a tenancy agreement.
If the fee does not appear on the above list, then it is a prohibited payment, which is outlawed by the ban.
Joanne Waller, our head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: "This new legislation seeks to ensure transparency for private rented sector housing tenants of the costs and fees they are liable to pay. The controls also set caps on deposits and certain other payments that landlords and letting agents can charge.
"We will initially raise awareness with landlords and letting agents as to their legal responsibilities, with further monitoring to ensure compliance with the law.
"We will investigate complaints, and should we find any non-compliances it could lead to financial penalties of up to £5,000. Further breaches can lead to criminal prosecution and banning orders from acting as a landlord or letting agent. An option also exists for a higher scale financial penalty of up to £30,000 instead of prosecution."
Other measures to protect consumers and business were also brought in earlier this year. Since 1 April, property agents who hold client money are required to be a member of an approved client money protection scheme.
This requirement exists where they hold money on behalf of a landlord or tenant before the payment becomes due.
Failure to do so could lead to a financial penalty of £30,000 being imposed.
Information as to the membership of an approved scheme requires display of the membership certificate at office premises and on websites of the property business.
Further advice for tenants is available from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06
Landlords and letting agents seeking further advice can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org