Matthew Smith is a Principal Enforcement Officer in the councilâ€™s Private Rented Services team and works to bring the cityâ€™s empty properties back into use.Â Since April, his team has brought more than 200 properties back into use, meaning more good quality housing in established neighbourhoods, less crime and financial gains for the city.
This week is Private Rented Sector Week, and Matthew is working with colleagues to advise tenants and landlords in Stockland Green, Sparkbrook and Soho – areas with a particularly high private rented sector. Matthewâ€™s blog reflects on the first day on board the bus in Stockland Green after the team had spoken to about 120 tenants and landlords. (See news release for background information â€“ The bus stops here â€¦. )
So finally the week has arrived. The Private Rented Service (PRS) bus has landed in Stockland Green ..not quite the weather Sir Cliff Richard enjoyed on his bus but it is November after all.
After setting up at 8.30 it wasnâ€™t long before the first residents came on board. Following a brief discussion it became clear this young couple were experiencing problems with their accommodation.
No heating no hot water to the flat and no glass to the bathroom window!! â€¦after 30 mins on the bus we knew the day had become worthwhile!
Armed with a small team throughout the day more and more residents came on board to view the work that had been done in the area … more stories of broken down heating and damp conditions,Â the team were ready to take details to begin in earnestÂ working on cases and to contact the landlords on the tenantsâ€™ behalf.
But of course this was not solely for local PRS tenants.Â It was refreshing when a local landlord came on board to discuss the New Immigration laws surrounding private landlords.Â Information readily at hand meant that he went away armed with knowledge about the new legislation.
Following a quick cheese and pickle sandwich from a local store the afternoon continued in the same vein. It was great to see tenants open up with their thanks that weâ€™d come down to share our advice and taken their concerns on board today.
Oh I and nearly forgot empty properties..how could I? A scourge on the landscape of any townâ€¦not 50 yards away from the bus a property which has lain empty for over 5 years has recently been Compulsory Purchased by the work of the PRS empty property team.Â Â A waste of housingâ€¦ a waste of much needed accommodation which in the New Year will be auctioned to a new owner to bring back into use.
As 3.30 arrived there was just time before the bus moved on to speak to another young couple who have dampness and mould throughout their flatâ€¦â€¦
So the day ended as it began advice, assistance given to the residents of Stockland Green in a way that was well received and very personal to the people that came on boardÂ â€¦â€¦next stop Sparkbrook Tuesday â€¦ all aboard â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..