By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
Lewisham housing officers removed 19 vulnerable residents from a property reminiscent of “slum housing from the Victorian era”, mayor and cabinet was told on Wednesday.
Drug-making equipment, rusty nails, and missing floorboards were found in the property in Lewisham Central ward.
Lewisham’s cabinet member for housing and planning, Cllr Paul Bell, relayed the details when presenting a report recommending the council adopt three new enforcement policies for the private rental sector, which set out the rules landlords must abide by.
The PRS represents one in four of all housing in Lewisham, around 32,000 properties.
Cllr Paul said the importance of the report could not be “more timely”.
“Officers in housing recently removed 19 vulnerable Lewisham residents within 24 hours from a property in Lewisham central ward that had conditions reminiscent of slum housing in the Victorian era.
“There were rusty nails sticking out of the floor, missing floorboards covered by thin carpet, drug-making equipment in the communal bathroom, and the following breaches,” he said.
He said officers found 21 breaches of HMO management laws and a series of hazards, including fire and electrical risks.
Mayor and cabinet approved the policies for the Private Sector Housing Agency (PSHA), the council’s arm of enforcement for the PRS.
PSHA officers are in charge of HMO licensing, housing standards enforcement, investigating and prosecuting landlords who illegally evict and harass their tenants, and bringing long term empty properties back into use.
The agreed policies include the General Enforcement Policy, the Smoke and CO Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 Statement of Principle, and the Electrical Safety Regulations Policy.
They set out the rules and consequences of breaking the law, for example that it is criminal offence to operate an HMO without having a valid licence.
“The council may choose to respond to any such breach or failure to license by issuing a Civil Penalty Notice.
“Where this course of action is taken and Civil Penalty Notices are issued, there is a maximum fine limit of £30,000,” according to the General Enforcement policy.
Mayor and cabinet also agreed to charge £150 for giving landlords VAT exemption certificates.
It follows a decision by the Government, trying to tackle long-term empty homes, to offer landlords taking on a home empty for two years a 15 per cent VAT reduction.
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