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Landlords are responsible for ensuring that their properties meet the minimum standard for housing required under the Housing Act 2004 and the requirements of the Housing Health & Safety Rating System. Failure to meet these requirements may result in enforcement action being taken. Additional requirements apply to Houses in Multiple Occupation.

Landlords must fit smoke detectors and, where necessary, carbon dioxide detectors on each level in their properties. The Council may impose a penalty charge of up to £5,000 if you don't. We've published a statement of principles detailing the amount of the penalty charge.

Civil Penalty Notices

The Housing Act 2004 was amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to enable local authorities to impose a financial penalty as an alternative to prosecution for the following offences:

  • Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice (section 30)
  • Offences in relation to licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (section 72)
  • Offences in relation to licensing of houses under Part 3 of the Act (section 95)
  • Offences of contravention of an overcrowding notice (section 139)
  • Failure to comply with management regulations in respect of Houses in Multiple Occupation (section 234)

Tunbridge Wells BC wants to support responsible landlords who provide decent and well maintained homes. However, a small number of landlords knowingly provide substandard accommodation.

A Civil Penalty policy has now been adopted by the Council and when applied can result in a quicker and more effective method of enforcement.

Advice and Support

The Private Sector Housing Team offer advice on meeting housing standards, how to avoid enforcement action and available help. Support is also available through the West Kent Landlord Forums and the Private Accredited Letting (PAL) Scheme.

Landlord Development Days are held periodically with the National Landlords Association and neighbouring councils to raise awareness of the legal requirements placed on private landlords and help local landlords develop their professional skills. The events also provide an excellent opportunity to network with other landlords. Landlords belonging to the PAL Scheme are eligible for free or discounted training. If you are interested in attending a development day please contact our Private Sector Housing team.

Funding may be available to landlords wishing to convert a property for letting or to return an empty property to use, please see the section on empty and dilapidated homes.

Advice on improving the energy efficiency of privately rented properties can be obtained from the the Energy Saving Trust. Discounts on cavity wall and loft insulation are available and these measures may even be free if tenants are in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property that is occupied by a number of people who have the use of a bedroom and share other facilities such as the kitchen and living room. For example properties occupied as bedsits, shared houses and buildings converted into flats.

HMOs which need to be licensed are those which are occupied by five or more people forming two or more households, and which have an element of shared facilities (eg. Kitchen, bathroom).

HMOs are regulated under the Housing Act 2004. The Housing Act 2004 places a duty on landlords or managing agents who rent HMOs to inform us of the property or properties and licence them with us.

Detailed information on assessing a properties need for a licence and how to apply is available in our HMO licensing section.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a mandatory system of inspection applicable to all rented housing, and replaced the fitness standard in 2006. It risk assesses the effect of housing conditions on the health and safety of occupiers or visitors.

An assessment of a residential property will involve a physical survey of the building noting any hazards including asbestos, biocides and entry by intruders. Hazards will be classified as either category 1 or category 2 following the risk assessment.  If we discover a category 1 hazard we have a duty to take the most appropriate course of action to reduce that hazard.

How is it enforced and what are the penalties?

We try to deal with problems informally at first, but if this is unsuccessful, we can require a landlord to carry out improvements to the property. For example by installing central heating and insulation to deal with cold, fix a rail to steep stairs to deal with the risk of falls, or mend a leaking roof. We also have powers to prohibit the use of the whole or part of a dwelling or restrict the number of permitted occupants.

Where hazards are modest we can serve a Hazard Awareness Notice to draw attention to a problem. Where an occupier is at immediate risk, we can take emergency remedial action.

Failure to comply with a statutory notice could lead to a fine of up to £5,000.

A property owner who feels that an assessment is wrong can discuss matters with the inspector and ultimately will be able to challenge an enforcement decision through the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).

For advice and information about organising an inspection please contact our Private Sector Housing Team.

A decent home meets the following four criteria:

It meets the current minimum standard for housing

Properties that don’t meet the minimum standard are those which have one or more hazards assessed as serious (category 1) under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

It is in a reasonable state of repair

Properties which don’t meet this criterion are those where either:

  • one or more of the key building components are old and because of their condition, need replacing or major repair; or
  • two or more of the other building components are old and because of their condition, need replacing or major repair.

It has reasonably modern facilities and services

Properties which don’t meet this criterion are those which lack three or more of the following:

  • a reasonably modern kitchen (20 years old or less)
  • a kitchen with adequate space and layout
  • a reasonably modern bathroom (30 years old or less)
  • an appropriately located bathroom and WC
  • adequate insulation against external noise
  • adequate size and layout of common areas for blocks of flats

A property lacking two or less of the above is still classed as decent therefore it is not necessary to modernise kitchens and bathrooms if a home meets the remaining criteria. 

It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort

Properties must have effective insulation and efficient heating.

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is mandatory requirement of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and gives tenants information on the energy efficiency of a property you want to let. This allows prospective tenants to see information on the energy efficiency and carbon emissions from their building so they can consider energy efficiency and fuel costs as part of their investment.

EPCs are produced by accredited energy assessors using standard methods and assumptions about energy usage. EPCs must be given to all prospective tenants and be used in any advertising of the property.

To encourage and support the many good landlords who already operate in the borough and to assist others in attaining the Decent Home Standard of the best, the Council has launched the Private Accredited Letting (PAL) Scheme.

PAL is our free, property-based scheme enabling landlords and letting agents to apply for some or all of their properties to be accredited via a simple online registration form once they have accepted the scheme code and requirements.

Registered properties will then be visited by a Housing Officer and after the inspection landlords with properties meeting the criteria, will receive a free certificate of full accreditation which is valid for a 3 year period.

Accreditation provides a fantastic opportunity for landlords to be publicly identified as providing good quality accommodation for tenants in the private rented sector.

Other benefits include:

  • Use of the PAL scheme logo
  • Free advertising of accredited properties on the PAL scheme website
  • Access to financial assistance for certain improvement works for example, energy efficiency or heating systems (subject to availability)
  • Reduction in HMO re-licencing fees 

For further information please contact our Private Sector Housing Team.

West Kent Landlords Forums are held twice a year to provide advice and support to local landlords and keep them up to date with developments affecting the private rented sector. The Forums are organised by the West Kent Landlords Partnership (Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, Sevenoaks District Council and the National Landlords Association).

For more information or to join our mailing list please contact our Tenancy Officers Team.

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