A Plymouth landlord could end up £7,500 out of pocket for failing to install a handrail.
Plymouth City Council has sent a formal ‘Notice of Intent’ to the owners of a Peverell property warning a civil penalty notice could be issued for failing to comply with an Improvement Notice.
The Council has this week served the registered property owner with a civil penalty notice that has an indicative charge of £7,500 for failing to comply with an Improvement Notice, which required handrails to be installed on outside steps of the property to reduce the hazard of falling on stairs and steps.
Although the landlord acknowledged the improvement notice and was aware of the work needed and timescale, the work was not carried out, leaving the six tenants and visitors at an increased risk of falling.
It is the first time the Council has used the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which permits councils to impose a civil penalty of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for offences under the Housing Act 2004.
Latest figures show that there are around 15,300 households in Plymouth who rent from private landlords.
The Council’s Community Connections team carries out inspections in response to concerns raised by tenants. In the last three months the team have improved around 400 homes, through working with landlords and where necessary, by enforcement.
When properties are inspected, they are assessed under the national Housing Health and Safety Rating System and there are 29 hazards ranging from excess cold, falling on stairs, damp and mould, crowding and space and fire to name a few.
Each hazard is assessed and the Council has a duty to act on all category 1 hazards. This may involve the owner removing or reducing the risk or restricting occupancy. So far this financial year, the Council has resolved 37 Category 1 cases, where tenants were living in excessively cold homes, and 35 Category 1 cases, involving risks around falls on stairs.
Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing and Cooperatives said: “We work to support good landlords, but where a landlord is consistently failing to meet their legal requirements, the Council will not hesitate to take enforcement action in order to improve the lives of local residents.
“Many of these issues are low level – boilers not working, leaks – that sort of thing – but if they do not get resolved, it just makes life miserable for the tenants. It’s far from glamorous work, but our intervention on a daily basis is making lives better for thousands of families every year.”
He added: “This work is not just about the lives of tenants affected at first hand – by reducing risk in properties we can help keep the pressure off the NHS.”
According to the Building Research Trust, it is estimated that preventing over 1,352 837 falls on stairs would save the NHS over £207 million. Tackling 1,325,000 properties across the country which are categorised as a risk as they are excessively cold would save a further £848 million in terms of medical treatment for conditions such as asthma, heart attacks, strokes, influenza, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
Tenants who have concerns about their properties should always put their concerns in writing to the landlord in the first instance. If they fail to take action, tenants can get in touch with the council by completing a ‘Housing Improvement Service Request’ at www.plymouth.gov.uk/housing/housingimprovementsdisrepair .