A council which has 20,000 unregulated rental properties within its area has launched a new charter to improve standards.
The unregulated properties are so-called ‘exempt accommodation’ - the issue is a national one but Birmingham appears to be the focus of the majority of exempt accommodation.
These 20,000 units typically accommodate single individuals referred from local social work agencies, councils, probation and prison services, and charities. Local MPs say a glut of traditional HMOs have been turned over from the regular private lets sector to enjoy exempt status.
In addition, many of the exempt properties are far below the acceptable standards for regulated rental apartments and houses.
So a £1m pilot between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Birmingham council has started to improve what many see as a crisis caused by the glut of exempt properties.
In future, providers and landlords who house the homeless and others in the exempt sector are being urged to voluntarily sign up to a new Quality Standards charter. Those who commit to the scheme agree their accommodation can be judged against a strict set of criteria with the aim of highlighting those who run well led, managed and high quality properties where tenants can thrive.
The council claims the spotlight will therefore go on landlords and providers who refuse to sign up.
Birmingham councillor Sharon Thompson says: "We want those who refer people into these properties - including councils, charities, probation services and support workers - to agree to only work with those who meet the Quality Standards. We have already had that commitment from some. We hope it will go some way to deterring those who are exploiting this sector."
Exempt accommodation is funded through housing benefit with potential residents placed into it using multiple referral routes.
This pilot has provided Birmingham council with additional resources to scrutinize applications for exempt status to ensure providers are offering suitable housing for those people with complex support needs.
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