New officers to tackle illegal evictions in Birmingham

New officers are set to be recruited as part of a city council’s response to illegal evictions and harassment of tenants in private rented accommodation.

Birmingham Council House
Birmingham Council House

Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet is set to approve the use of grant funding to recruit four private tenancy officers after requests for assistance doubled in the past two years.

The grade four roles would cost £191,000 and be funded for 2022/23 only through the Government’s New Burdens Grant.

The move is part of the authority’s private rented sector strategy – a document the council has produced as part of its role in the regulation and enforcement of private rented sector residential properties.

The strategy comes at a time when attention is on the city’s housing sector including Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and exempt accommodation – shared housing that is not funded or commissioned by local authority or social care funding.

The strategy seeks to:

  • Increase the supply of safe and secure accommodation by bringing empty homes back into use

  • Identify and implement local initiatives to address local issues including consideration of selective and/or additional licensing, and issues relating to exempt accommodation

  • Tackle disrepair and criminality

  • Prevent illegal eviction and harassment

  • Improve the energy efficiency of Birmingham homes, tackle fuel poverty, and reduce carbon emissions

  • Operate a “high-quality mandatory Houses of Multiple Occupation licensing scheme” to ensure shared accommodation is safe and provides appropriate facilities to occupiers

  • Influence Government and national regulatory agencies to “enhance relevant legislation and regulation by proactively engaging in the national conversation and seeking improvement to relevant legislation”

The strategy states: “We will work with private landlords to encourage and support them to improve standards and take robust enforcement action against those landlords who fail to manage their property properly.

“We will respond to reports of disrepair, overcrowding, illegal eviction and harassment quickly and in accordance with legislation and existing policies and procedures.”

As well as the private tenancy officers, the council is proposing to create five new licensing officer roles in the HMO Mandatory Licensing Team.

These officers would carry out inspection visits prior to licences being awarded, conduct compliance visits, identify illegal HMOs and take appropriate enforcement action.

This would be met through a review of the licence fee “which enables the cost of administering the licensing scheme to be recovered through the fee”.

There are also plans for an additional empty homes officer to bring property back into use – “with funding to be identified from 2023/24”.

An additional four environmental health officers are intended to be recruited to respond to “complaints of disrepair, overcrowding and other areas of non-compliance with housing legislation” – funded through existing budgets.

An additional manager for the expanded environmental health team will also be recruited at a cost of £76,000 to be met through existing budgets.

The report to cabinet members states: “It would not be reasonable to adopt a ‘do nothing’ approach as it is essential that we ensure that landlords, tenants and all citizens are aware of where we will focus our resources to best improve accommodation in this sector and improve neighbourhoods.”

The cabinet meeting will be held on March 1 from 10am and can be viewed on the city council’s committee meetings YouTube page.

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