Enforcement of housing standards
We are responsible for dealing with unsatisfactory housing conditions in Cherwell. We enforce housing law and landlord and tenant law in accordance with Government guidance and our approved enforcement policies.
Investigating housing disrepair
When we receive complaints about housing conditions, we will generally carry out an inspection and investigate the circumstances of the case. When inspecting we will ask questions, take photographs and make notes. In most cases relating to housing disrepair we will then carry out an assessment under the HHSRS. Where we identify hazards to health we can choose to take informal action or serve legal notices.
An informal approach will be applied in those cases where shortcomings are judged to be relatively minor, or where the relevant landlord or agent has established a good track-record, or has demonstrated a willingness and the ability to put matters right promptly.
Notices and Orders
In cases where numerous and/or serious hazards are identified, or informal action has proved unsuccessful, we will proceed to serve legal Notices requiring repairs or other actions to be undertaken. It is an offence not to comply with a Notice and we can prosecute or issue a civil penalty for non-compliance. Additionally, if required works are not done, or it is an emergency, we can carry out the works in default and the landlord will be charged for the cost. If we serve an improvement notice or take emergency action, tenants are protected against retaliatory eviction for six months.
Investigating HMOs and other housing offences
When we suspect housing legislation breaches (eg unlawful eviction or harassment, breach of Prohibition Order, unlicensed HMOs, or breaches of HMO Management Regulations), we will investigate to establish whether any offence has been committed.
In most cases we give 24 hours' prior notice of inspections. However, if we suspect an offence is being committed relating to HMO legislation we can inspect without giving any prior notice. If we are obstructed or refused access, we can apply to the Magistrates' Court to obtain a warrant. This allows us to enter by force if necessary.
Once we have inspected, we may serve legal notices to establish how the property is owned and occupied. Failing to comply with these notices is an offence. The investigation process may also include interviews under caution, gathering witness statements, and information sharing with other enforcement agencies and council departments.