TENANTS living on one of Newcastle’s most deprived estates are being urged to report any problems with their properties to the Borough Council.
The message to tenants on Galley’s Bank – known locally as ‘the Miners’ Estate’ – in Kidsgrove, is part of a multi-agency initiative there.
There have been long-running concerns over housing conditions, the high levels of private renting, anti-social behaviour and general appearance of the estate, widely recognised as one of the 20 per cent most deprived areas in the country.
Now, the Council’s housing officers are issuing a mail-out to all private rental tenants on Galley’s Bank, advising them of the minimum housing standards they should expect – and what to do if those standards are not met.
A letter template has also been provided, to assist tenants in writing to their landlords and reporting any repairs that need carrying out or highlighting issues with their properties that may be affecting their health.
Cllr Kyle Robinson, Cabinet member for planning and housing, said: “As a Council, we recognise the importance of having good quality, privately-rented housing managed to the highest standards.
“Fortunately, the majority of landlords strive to maintain their properties to an acceptable, or higher, standard, but there are also those who do not, and it is their tenants who often have to put up with living in inhospitable and sometimes downright dangerous conditions as a result.
“As part of our work to improve things on the Miners’ Estate, we are sending all tenants information about the standards they should reasonably be able to expect from the properties they rent, and – more importantly – what steps they can take if things are not as they should be.”
There are wider issues over the condition of properties on the estate, many of which are still the original pre-fabricated, non-traditional ‘Schindler’ homes, built by the Coal Board in the 1950s and known to have a limited life span.
Because of their pre-fabricated design, mortgage companies are not willing to lend on these properties, limiting their sale on the housing market to cash buyers only.
Since rental return is not affected, in recent years private landlords have bought a large number of the properties, and more than 50 per cent of the houses on the estate are now privately rented, compared to a 10 percent average in the Borough and the national average of 16 per cent.
The Council’s housing officers have already written to landlords promoting the North Staffs Landlord Accreditation scheme to help develop their knowledge. They have also been liaising with the National Landlords Association, to explore ways of addressing the issue of defective building construction.
Late last year, the Council took action against the landlord of a privately rented property elsewhere in the borough, which was deemed to be in such poor condition that the tenants’ lives were in danger.
The landlord was subsequently found guilty at Newcastle Magistrates Court of failing to comply with an Improvement Notice under the Housing Act, fined £1,000, including costs, and also ordered to pay a victim surcharge.
Cllr Robinson added: “That case should serve as a clear warning to landlords that the Council will not hesitate in taking proactive and positive action in instances where they are found to be failing to properly meet their obligations.”