Improving the Private Rented Sector in Stoke-on-Trent

We commissioned consultants to consider approaches to improve the private rented sector, undertake research and best practice from other councils and from this propose a number of options to help the team address poor management and disrepair in the private rented sector.


What went in

The funding application was for expert advice to enable the development of effective approaches to address poor management and disrepair and increase quality and supply in the private rented sector in Stoke-on-Trent.

  • Budget: £25,000
  • Other resource needed: (eg staff time and expertise, partners involved, venues, etc)  Consultants were employed to undertake the research. Consultants held meetings with members of the Private Sector Housing Team and other Stoke on Trent Council Services such as Homelessness, Anti-Social Behaviour and Social Care.

The consultants also carried out research with other councils to review best practice and undertook a landlords and tenants survey to understand the views of those people living in or renting out private sector housing in Stoke-on-Trent. They also researched what other tools were available to improve the private rented sector.

Stakeholder consultation was undertaken online using Teams and included:

  • Private Sector Housing Team
  • Revenues and Benefits Team
  • Adult Social Care
  • Children’s Services
  • The Communities Team
  • The Housing Solutions Service
  • The Homelessness Forum
  • Consultation with landlords – online survey and telephone interviews
  • Consultation with tenants – online survey

Time taken to achieve outcomes: Work on the commission commenced in March 2020  and was completed in December 2020.

What came out

Deliverables

  • Review of the evidence base, including the Private Sector Stock Condition Survey 2017, the city’s recent selective licensing application and use of enforcement powers.
  • A detailed search of methods other councils have used to improve the private rented sector, preparation of 18 case studies and an evaluation of approaches applied elsewhere.
  • The production of an Ideas, Options and Opportunities report.
  • A number of recommendations to assist the council to form a strategic plan to improve the private rented sector for a number of years.
  • Details of costs, implications and benefits of each approach.
  • The provision of a cost benefit matrix which set out the likely impacts of each approach and enabled the options to be evaluated transparently and consistently.

Difference made/ indication of success

  • Usually it is difficult to get engagement from tenants and landlords. This piece of work led to a high number of tenants and landlords responding to the survey. This is quality information and will help the council to help to improve services taking into consideration these views as well as providing the council with evidenced based policy making and service improvements.
  • This piece of work helped to form a link with another organisation through a subsequent meeting to enable the sharing of best practice which will be available long after the commission.
  • This research advised how to utilise additional enforcement tools available, helped to demonstrate how we can maximise each contact made and suggested alternatives to enforcement which may help to improve the private rented sector.
  • The research also highlighted the opportunity to consider how information sharing and joint working between council departments and other statutory agencies can be harnessed and applied to deliver improvements in the quality of housing and health for private sector tenants and their families.
  • We have gained details of how we can work with departments within our council to improve the sector and this has already started commencing with Housing Benefits. 
  • 81 landlords responded to the landlord consultation.

Quotes from landlord survey:

"The council needs to work better with landlords to address the root cause of the problem. Punishment doesn't work, be more solution focused, invest now to save in the future."

"Find the good landlords and use them to promote best practice and support them. Use good publicity, media to inform and make sure the distinction between the two types of landlords (good and bad) are made clear."

Quote from tenant survey:

"There are private rented properties in my street and the landlords don't care what happens I think all landlords should be held responsible and be accredited to the council."


Executive summary

Challenge and context

The Private Sector Stock Condition Survey 2017 and an unsuccessful selective licensing application to the Secretary of State in 2019 provided detailed evidence that the city’s private rented sector exhibited poor housing conditions whilst serving some of the most vulnerable residents. We needed to find alternative methods to address poor management and disrepair in this sector to improve residents living in the city’s deprived areas.

What we did

We commissioned consultants to consider approaches to improve the private rented sector, undertake research and best practice from other councils and from this propose a number of options to help the team address poor management and disrepair in the private rented sector.

The difference we made

Besides the selection of case studies and the very successful engagement with landlords and tenants the project also considered how links can be developed across the council in order to maximize the impact of each council contact with a household to address hazards in the home and the management practices of the landlord and how we can work with other stakeholders to improve the private rented sector.

What’s next?

The city council has identified two of the approaches from the report to implement and to action those ideas and has redefined resources to deliver the two approaches from early 2021.

Lessons learned
  • The brief was potentially too large and in future needs to be focused on one or two key areas. The brief was amended during the project to help focus on key areas and this resulted in much better information.
  • Due to COVID consultation was difficult, people at councils were busy with other duties and so there may be some best practice which was not included.
  • Difficulties in engaging with Social Care partners due to high volumes of work.

Contact

Zainul Pirmohamed
Strategic Manager – Private Sector Housing Team Zainul.pirmohamed@stoke.gov.uk


Further information regarding the Ideas paper, case studies and Options and Opportunities report  can be obtained by emailing privatesectorhousing@stoke.gov.uk