Private sector housing enforcement policy

Our aim is to help improve the health, safety, welfare and quality of life of people who live in, work in or visit East Hampshire.

Enforcement can involve:

  • Advisory visits
  • Help with taking the necessary action
  • Licensing
  • Legal enforcement of necessary work.

We aim to carry out these duties in a fair, practical and consistent manner.

We recognise that most people want to comply with the law and will, therefore, take care to help business and others meet their legal obligations without unnecessary expense. However, we will take firm action, including prosecution where appropriate, against those who ignore the law or act irresponsibly.

We adopted the central and local government Concordat on Good Enforcement in 2000. This means we are committed to the policies and procedures set out below.

Policy

Standards

In consultation with business and other relevant interested parties, including technical experts where appropriate, we will draw up clear standards and targets setting out the level of service and performance the public and business people can expect to receive.

We will publish these standards and our annual performance against them.

The standards will be made available to businesses and others who are regulated.

Openness and accessibility

We will provide information and advice in plain English on the rules that we apply and will disseminate this as widely as possible.

We will be open about how we set about our work, including any charges that we set, consulting business, voluntary organisations, charities, consumers, employers and employees.

We will discuss general issues, specific compliance failures or problems with anyone experiencing difficulties.

Helpfulness

We believe that prevention is better than cure and that our role therefore involves actively working with business, especially small and medium sized businesses, to advise on and assist with compliance.

We will provide a courteous and efficient service and our staff will identify themselves by name.

We will provide a contact name and telephone number for further dealings with us and we will encourage business to seek advice/information from us.

We will ensure that, wherever practicable, our enforcement services are effectively co-ordinated to minimise unnecessary overlaps and time delays.

Complaints about service

We will provide well-publicised, effective and timely complaints procedures easily accessible to business, the public, employees and consumer groups.

In cases where disputes cannot be resolved, any right of complaint or appeal will be explained, with details of the process and the likely time-scales involved.

Proportionality

We will minimise the costs of compliance by ensuring that any action we require is proportionate to the risks. As far as the law allows, we will take account of the circumstances of the case and attitude of the individual/operator when considering action.

We will take particular care to work with small businesses and voluntary and community organisations so that they can meet their legal obligations without unnecessary expense, where practicable.

We will make use of the full range of enforcement options available to us, from informal advice, informal notices and, where appropriate, Advisory Letters (advance warning of the council’s intentions) through to the service of formal notices, prosecutions and injunctions. In doing so we will have regard at all times to ‘The Code for Crown Prosecutors’.

The evidence available will be considered against detailed guidance issued to each officer before making a decision about which enforcement option to follow. Factors which affect the choice of enforcement option include:

  • The seriousness of the alleged offence e.g. did an injury result?
  • Whether there have been previous incidents of a similar nature
  • The willingness of the party to prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • Whether a reasonable explanation for the alleged offence has been offered
  • Whether there is satisfactory evidence of an offence.

We will only initiate formal action (the service of a legal notice and possibly a prosecution or injunction) when:

  • Helping, talking and telling have failed to sort out the problem, or
  • There is a serious and/or urgent risk to public safety, the environment or health, or
  • The offence is so serious that other forms of action would be inappropriate and it would be in the public interest, or
  • In particular cases, where the law requires that we take formal action.

Procedures

Advice from an officer will be put clearly and simply and will be confirmed in writing, on request, explaining why any remedial work is necessary and when it has to be completed. Legal requirements will be clearly distinguished from best practice advice.

Before formal enforcement action is taken, officers will provide an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the case and, if possible, resolve points of difference, unless immediate action is required.

Where immediate action is considered necessary, an explanation of why such action was required will be given at the time and confirmed in writing within 10 working days.

Where there are rights of appeal against formal action, advice on the appeal mechanism will be clearly set out in writing at the time the action is taken (whenever possible this advice will be issued with the enforcement notice).

What we expect in return

We expect businesses and individuals to talk to us if they don’t know what to do or need help and to work with our officers to resolve problems.

In particular, this means not to be obstructive.

Above all we expect people to recognise their responsibility to comply with the law.

Monitoring of this policy

The main method for monitoring will be through the customer satisfaction returns which form part of the summary leaflet which is left at all premises inspected and given to others likely to be subject to enforcement action.

This offers a pre-paid form requesting feedback as to whether we do what we say we will do. It also offers an opportunity for further comments and suggestions.

Customer satisfaction returns will be reviewed continually and we intend to publish the results and any actions taken by us in response.