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Hazardous properties still to be monitored during coronavirus lockdown, council insists

PUBLISHED: 12:07 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:47 25 March 2020

Great Yarmouth's Nelson Ward is part of the council's Selective Licensing scheme, which means all private landlords must be registered with the council and subject to compliance inspections. Photo: Steve Adams

Great Yarmouth's Nelson Ward is part of the council's Selective Licensing scheme, which means all private landlords must be registered with the council and subject to compliance inspections. Photo: Steve Adams

A council has promised to keep tabs on hazardous properties during lockdown, despite calls from landlords to postpone inspections altogether.

Great Yarmouth town centre during lockdown. Picture: Tony CarrollGreat Yarmouth town centre during lockdown. Picture: Tony Carroll

Great Yarmouth Council’s selective licensing scheme in the Nelson Ward aims to crack down on negligent landlords through routine inspections and the identification of hazards - which then must be repaired by the landlord.

Though in its first year of five, and, according to the council, making good progress with over 1,500 hazards fixed since January last year, the coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruption to progress.

In a statement a council spokesman said: “As of yesterday, we temporarily suspended proactive inspections of privately rented dwellings, including Selectively Licensed and Mandatory HMO Licensed dwellings.

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“However, please be assured that the council will maintain its statutory duties, and will still undertake risk-based reactive inspections where it has reasons to suspect, such as following tenant complaints, significant hazards to human health within dwellings.”

This means that despite routine inspections being called off - which must be carried out three times in licensed properties over a five-year period - tenants can still complain to the council if they consider their living situation unsafe in any way, and expect the problem to be dealt with.

The council spokesman added: “Whilst such routine inspections had continued to be carried out on a risk-basis in accordance with Government guidance, they have now been suspended in light of the tighter national restrictions now in place and the requirement for Environmental Services officers to focus work on the response to Covid-19.”

According to Carl Agar, chief executive of the council’s delivery partner Home Safe, “we cannot simply allow tenants, and especially those with health conditions, to self-isolate in hazardous homes.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued strict social distancing guidance earlier this week. PHOTO: Leon Neal/PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson issued strict social distancing guidance earlier this week. PHOTO: Leon Neal/PA Wire

He added that “public health and the health of the tenants” was both Home Safe and the council’s primary concern, and that this would not be foregone just because of coronavirus.

But local landlords claimed the continuity of any inspections at this time was “nonsensical”, with Paul Cunningham of the Great Yarmouth Landlords’ Association saying that visitations by inspectors would “put tenants at risk”.

Nevertheless, Gavin Dick of the National Landlords Association said that while the NLA was recommending landlords pospone their own six-monthly inspections of their properties, they should work with the council under selective licensing conditions - even during this difficult time.


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