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SHDC say they have "a range of measures" for "more flexibility and support" for residents

SA Updated
SHDC say they have "a range of measures" for "more flexibility and support" for residents

A range of measures to increase the way vulnerable residents and tenants in privately rented homes will be supported have been recommended for the next stage of approval by the district council’s Executive.

At a meeting held on Thursday, 26 January, the Executive recommended to the next Full Council at their February meeting that a number of home and enforcement policies should be updated.

The recommendations would "make a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of South Hams’ residents".

The aim of the first policy change is to remove as much bureaucracy (red tape) as possible that surrounds how long it takes to get home adaption grants approved. This means that the council will be able to get help to people more quickly for essential adaptations through Disabled Facility Grants.

There are a number of grants available through the Government’s Better Care Fund. Some grants are ‘means tested’, this is a financial assessment to decide if the council will pay towards your application, and some are not.

A spokesperson for SHDC said: "The Accessible Homes Grant will no longer need to be means tested for ‘through floor’ lifts, bathrooms and applications for children. This will mean quicker processing of grants for residents. This will be particularly helpful for families where children are waiting for big adaptions like extra care rooms.

"Importantly, it will also speed up the transfer of care from hospitals back into the patient’s home. Something that is crucial for the wellbeing of the patient but also imperative for hospitals and other patients on waiting lists or in need of emergency care.

"An example for a children’s care room costing £50,000, could mean a Disabled Facility Grant of £30,000 or an Accessible Homes Grant of £20,000, neither of which would now be means tested. The DFGs have never been means tested for children and the AHGs means testing has now been removed.

"The Healthy Home Grants would double from £5,000 to £10,000 for home repairs and improvements. The grant would will be more flexible, and for example could help to keep residents safer in their homes from slips, trips and falls.

"An increase of £1,000 per application from £2,000 to £3,000 to reflect the recent increases in building costs is in line for the ‘ECO Flex Top Ups’. Benefitting from a name change to the ‘Warm Up Grants’ would make the grant more easily identifiable."

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “I’m really pleased to recommend these reports to Full Council. Often we have our hands tied with unnecessary bureaucratic processes beyond our control. Now we have proposed to amend the policies and make them much quicker and much more flexible.

“This policy is going to mean that DFGs get carried out much faster, which for many people is really important, as people never apply for them until they actually need them and then they need them as soon as possible. This will really make a huge difference for many people who need to apply.

“Some of the grant applications will no longer have the lengthy means testing, which will help our residents in a much more sensible approach to the process. A benefit to everyone involved!”

In an additional policy update recommendation, any landlord who is not fulfilling their duties to their tenants could be fined under new recommendations approved by the Executive to the next Full Council meeting in February.

This would go further in helping to improve the condition of rental homes, and help towards the council’s ongoing Climate Change goals for the district.

Civil penalty fines would be issued for landlords who do not have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). An EPC certificate tells you how energy efficient a building is and gives it a rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient).

It is important so rental properties don’t fall below the accepted standards. Those that do are likely to suffer from damp and mould which is particularly harmful to health, as seen through the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from Rochdale recently.

There is a risk that landlords who don’t follow the rules may also remove properties which are likely to fail inspections, or which do not have valid certificates, from the rental sector. This would add hugely to the already struggling housing crisis in the South Hams

Any increase in changes to enforcement action, and any resulting damp and mould issues found within rental properties would be dealt with quickly and effectively.

Cllr Pearce continues: “For too long there have been landlords who don’t give their tenants the properties they deserve. We’re in such short supply for housing stock in the District that having greater speed and flexibility to be able to fine those who don’t keep to the accepted energy efficiency ratings, and allow damp and mould to run unchecked is completely dreadful.

“This policy change would allow us the chance to stop those landlords from operating in the shadows. We’ve offered support and incentives in the past, so next is enforcement to encourage them to bring their properties up to scratch and keep them within the rental market. Exactly where we need to keep them.”

Both policies will now progress for a final decision at Full Council, which will be held on Thursday 16 February 2023.

You can view the meeting here: 

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