Wednesday, 30 September 2009

New licenses to make landlords tackle the neighbours from hell

Private landlords in an area of Leeds will have to take action against anti-social tenants or face fines of up to £5,000 from tomorrow.

In a bid to crack down on anti-social tenants and poor housing, part of Cross Green and East End Park in Leeds has been designated as an area of Selective Licensing. From 1st October, all owners of privately rented properties in the area need a special licence to operate.

Failure to have applied for or obtained a licence by tomorrow could mean a fine, on conviction, of up to £20,000.

The aim is to help to address issues of low demand affecting the area and reduce the anti-social behaviour of tenants in privately rented properties. Landlords will not be made responsible for the actions of their tenants, but they will be expected to take action if they know that their tenants are causing a problem.

In a selective licensing area the landlord must also meet a ‘fit and proper person’ test to obtain a licence. Their rented properties must meet the licence conditions, ensuring they are safe and that the landlord can, and will, deal with anti-social tenants.

The licence conditions also cover issues of fire, gas and electrical safety, obtaining appropriate references prior to any tenancy being offered, keeping properties visually decent and ensuring that properties are well managed. A breach of any licence condition could lead, on conviction, to a fine of up to £5,000.

Councillor Les Carter, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“The majority of landlords in Leeds take their responsibilities seriously, but there are a few who show little or no interest in managing their properties responsibly.
“A small minority of landlords let their properties without really checking up on their new tenants.
“Designating an area as a selective licensing area helps the council to deal with bad landlords and should prevent those sort of problems happening in that area.”

Before applying to central government for the designation the council looked in detail at how anti-social behaviour affected two specific areas of the city. Information was collected to help the council have a better understanding about the housing market in those areas. The council also looked at the statistical information about the problems of anti-social behaviour and low demand in the areas and how selective licensing might help improve them.

Before a final decision about the proposals was made the council asked people living in the East End Park and Cross Green areas of east Leeds what they thought about the council’s proposals to introduce selective licensing. This consultation, with both residents and landlords, showed that selective licensing could have a positive impact. The proposal to set up a selective licensing area in East End Park and Cross Green and the designation was approved by the government on 19th May 2009.

To check the area to which the new arrangements applies visit www.leeds.gov.uk/selectivelicensing where you can also download information guides for landlords and managing agents or tenants and residents.

Copies of the consultation survey and application form and guidance are available as downloads on the same webpage. Copies of the designation can also be seen at Health and Environmental Action Services, Knowsthorpe Gate, Cross Green, Leeds, LS9 0NP .

For more information, or if you wish to apply for a licence, please do contact the Selective Licensing team at selective.licensing@leeds.gov.uk, by calling 0113 3950044 or writing to Selective Licensing Team, Leeds City Council, Millshaw, Churwell, Leeds, LS11 0LS

Notes for Editors
Section 82 of the Housing Act 2004, allows councils to apply to the government for approval to designate an area a ‘Selective Licensing’ area. If approval is granted then selective licensing is a tool that councils can use, along with other initiatives, to help regenerate areas by improving the private rented sector in that area.

In East End Park and Cross Green the information gathered in relation to that area supported what the council had been told by local residents and landlords in their consultations. The research showed that :
• 52% of empty properties were in the private rented sector.
• Approximately 30 percent of all homes in the area were privately rented. The average for the whole of Leeds was 10%.
• Average house prices in the area were lower than in other parts of the city.
• Anti-social behaviour and crime rates were higher in East End Park and Cross Green than in some other similar areas.

The consultation process included :
• Tenants, residents, landlords and other people with an interest in the East End Park and Cross Green areas who were consulted on their views of the scheme and the areas. The consultation started on 30 October 2007.
• A door-to-door survey was carried out in the two target areas and in neighbouring areas.
• Council officers attended local meetings in November 2007 to answer any questions regarding selective licensing
• Discussions took place with lenders, landlords and managing agents to get their views on the proposed scheme.

ENDS
For media enquiries, please contact:
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3937
Email: michael.molcher@leeds.gov.uk

Eco friendly children put pedal power to the test

A group of young cyclists will take part in a challenging bike ride from their school in Beeston to the environment centre at Skelton Grange tomorrow.

The children, who have all completed level two cycling skills training, will take part in a variety of skills based activities in the playground before setting off at 10.30am on Thursday, 1 October. Their route will take them into the city and then out along the canal to Skelton Grange. The ride, about 10 kilometres in total, will be led and supervised by cycle trainers from the city council’s road safety promotion unit.

The event is part of the school’s ‘One world week’, and will involve the children in sustainable transport and environmental activities, and give them the chance to explore the facilities at Skelton Grange's environment centre before returning to school.

Chris Lees, headteacher of Beeston Primary School said:
"This is a fantastic opportunity for the children to learn about and experience the world around them. They are currently learning about the environment and this will raise their awareness of sustainable transport, recycling and green issues. They will gain confidence with their cycling skills and learn how to put the skills they have learned into practice."

Councillor Stuart Andrew, lead member responsible for road safety said:
"We are really happy to support this event, which gives the children experience of two very different cycling environments - cycling on the city’s roads and along the canal.

“Our cycling trainers will advise them on how to get the most out of their cycling, which will give their confidence a boost and hopefully encourage them to continue to use pedal power in the future.”

ENDS
Additional info

Leeds City Council’s road safety promotion unit, provides road safety training at schools across Leeds. For more information ring 0113 2475198 or visit the road safety section at www.leeds.gov.uk/roadsafety

Skelton Grange environment centre in Leeds is an innovative environmental education project that aims to bring alive the issues surrounding sustainable development. Skelton Grange is managed by BTCV (British Trust for conservation volunteers), the UK’s leading charity creating better environments where people feel valued, included and involved. More information about BTCV can be found at http://www2.btcv.org.uk/

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578
Email: claire.macklam@leeds.gov.uk

Council moves to tackle city centre taxi congestion

Leeds City Council is introducing a number of new measures to tackle traffic congestion caused by queuing taxis in the city centre.

The council is looking at creating new taxi ranks to create more areas for taxis to queue and officers are working with the police and the bus company, Metro, to step up enforcement activities. Fines will be issued to drivers who stop at green lights, park on double yellow lines and block the Headrow. In the future, regular offenders may have their taxi driver licences suspended.

The move follows high numbers of complaints about queuing taxis at various sites in the city centre causing traffic chaos by blocking buses and other drivers. The problem is particularly bad during the peak rush hour and along the Headrow and is believed to be caused by a lack of waiting areas for taxis to pick up passengers at the station and the removal of a rank at Leeds Bradford International Airport.

Councillor Richard Brett, Leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for taxi licensing, said:

“This is a huge problem affecting a lot of people and cannot be allowed to continue.

“We are seeking to provide additional ranks, permanent or temporary at Meadow Lane and Lower Briggate to help the situation and we hope to have these in place by the end of October.

“However, while we do understand the taxi drivers’ situation and are keen for them to work with us to find a solution, they also need to know that we are stepping up enforcement activities. Traffic enforcement work is being targeted at problem areas and offenders who flout traffic regulations will be fined.

“We have asked officers to take further enforcement proposals, which could involve repeat offenders seeing their licences suspended, to the council’s Licensing and Regulatory Panel for their consideration and approval.

“We will continue to work closely with Metro and West Yorkshire Police to resolve this problem.”

Ends

For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office(0113) 224 3602
Email sara.hyman@leeds.gov.uk

A very green welcome for new tenants


Caption: The ENEHL Access and Customer Care Group sign off the new tenant welcome pack

Settling into a council home just got even easier and is now environmentally friendly – thanks to the new Welcome Pack being given to new tenants of East North East Homes Leeds.

The packs, which have just been officially re-launched, provide tenants with a flexible, reusable, area-specific information pack with the essential things to settle into their new home including a welcome card, a mini guide to their area, service standards guide, jargon guide, information DVD, and a £5 gift voucher to buy items to make their house a home.

But the packaging they come in that makes the new packs environmentally-friendly – the cotton bag, which replaces the box they were previously packaged in, can be reused as a shopping bag.

The DVD tells new tenants about the area, their rights and responsibilities and how they can get involved with activities in their community. Tenants from Seacroft South Action Group and the Customer and Access Group were asked what they thought should go in the packs and they decided those items would be of real benefit to those who were moving into a new home.

The Tenants Handbook has also been updated. Useful and easy to follow, it informs tenants of the housing services that they are entitled to receive from East North East Homes Leeds (ENEHL), one of the three organisations that manages council housing on behalf of Leeds City Council. It also explains what their landlord expects from them as a tenant.

Available in a range of languages, the handbook has been written and created with the help of tenants, and has been designed so that it is in a folded A5 format which means it can be stored for easy access.

FHM, Colour Copy, ABC Promotional Gifts and Mears – all partner organisations of ENEHL – were involved in sponsoring the Handbook and Welcome Packs.

Angelena Fixter, chair of the East North East Homes Leeds board, said:
”This new Welcome Pack plays a vital part in our aim to improve customer care and is an example of good practice in housing management.
“I would like to thank the tenants of ENEHL whose contribution and advice was very helpful and much appreciated in the development of this handbook, in particular the Seacroft South Action Group and Access and Customer Care Focus Group.
“Tenants who receive a copy of the handbook should keep it in a safe place in their home for easy access.”

Copies of the Handbook will also be available in housing offices for reference only.

ENDS
For media enquiries, please contact:
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3937
Email: michael.molcher@leeds.gov.uk