Burnham launches scheme to improve housing standards across GM region

Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has announced a £600,000 package of measures to support tenants who feel trapped in sub-standard housing.

At an event in Moss Side this morning (May 16) he unveiled a project aimed at clamping down on rogue landlords, as part of a plan to rewire the rental system.

The Good Landlord Charter, set to be rolled out later this year, will work with landlords who are willing to improve the standard of the properties they rent out. The first in the UK, the Charter scheme will cover social and private rented sector housing and set out clear, practical, and accessible standards to drive up the quality of renting in Greater Manchester.

For tenants whose landlords are not willing to work with the combined authority voluntarily, it will be launching a Property Check scheme – another UK first. This will help those who feel trapped by their housing situation by giving them the right to request a property check, carried out by local teams and followed up with enforcement action where necessary.

Data shows that, throughout Greater Manchester, around 23% (56,000) of private rented homes and just under 17% (82,000) of all rented homes do not meet the legal Decent Homes Standard. But since many tenants feel unable to raise complaints for fear of eviction, it’s thought the true number of substandard rentals may be as high as 40%.

A recent survey of private tenants in Greater Manchester found that in the past year:

  • 43% of private tenants had experienced damp and mould.
  • 31% had been without hot water or central heating.
  • 20% had experienced broken electrics.
  • 20% were living in a property with a leaky roof.
  • 12% were living with a pest infestation.

Greater Manchester is investing £150,000 in a pilot with Salford City Council and central government to explore how these checks can be used effectively and proactively and help identify properties that fall short of the Decent Homes Standard – a legal requirement when the Renters (Reform) Bill comes into law later this year.

The Mayor will be asking the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to support the delivery of Property Checks. Fire crews already visit around 30,000 homes a year, providing fire safety checks and work is under way to explore how they could deploy Property Checks as part of their work with our communities.

To drive forward Greater Manchester’s plans to tackle the housing crisis, the Mayor has announced two more new pilot projects that will come into effect in the next 12 months, supporting the implementation of the Good Landlord Charter and the vision to become the UK’s first Housing First city region:

  • Tackling illegal evictions: The Renters (Reform) Bill will also introduce a new duty on local authorities to tackle unlawful evictions and harassment of tenants. Greater Manchester is getting ready by investing £300,000 to set up a new team of housing law experts, providing advocacy and support to renters and strengthening enforcement capacity. The team will work with and across the boroughs involved in the pilot to advise tenants and to identify chances to intervene when people are at risk of harassment and illegal eviction.
  • Using the benefits system to improve standards: When the Renters (Reform) Bill is made law, it will become illegal for landlords to rent out homes that do not meet the Decent Homes Standard. In many cases, rogue landlords receive rent payments through housing benefits, meaning taxpayers foot the bill for sub-standard housing. £150,000 is being made available to support a new pilot with Oldham Council exploring how the GMCA, central government and local councils can work together to claim back housing benefit from landlords letting out substandard homes.

Andy Burnham, said: “Today we drive forward the next phase of Greater Manchester’s mission to tackle the housing crisis and get serious about housing standards.

“Everyone across our city region deserves a good, safe, and secure home. It should be the starting point for a good life. It should not damage your health or be a source of concern and anxiety.

“Sadly, too many people in Greater Manchester still find themselves in those situations, trapped in poorly maintained properties and in fear of unlawful eviction. But the days of bad landlords renting out unsafe and unfit homes are coming to an end.”

He added: “This new right to a property check for all residents, backed up with new measures to protect renters and take action against rogue landlords, will empower people across Greater Manchester and put us on course to become the UK’s only Housing First city region.”

The three pilot programmes, currently in development, support Greater Manchester’s plan to make sure every resident in the city region can live in a good, safe home. Galvanising this plan will be the creation of a multi-agency Greater Manchester Housing First unit within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which will develop a strategy to drive up standards and bolster enforcement capacity across the board.

The Mayor announced the package of measures on a housing estate in Moss Side, where he was joined by Cllr Gavin White, Manchester City Council Executive Member for Housing and Development.

Manchester City Council is currently consulting on proposals for new selective licensing schemes, which require private landlords or their managing agents to obtain a license before renting out a property. The proposals would see the total number of private rented sector properties in the borough covered by selective licensing schemes rise from 2,000 to just under 4,000.

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