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Private Sector Housing Team working practices

During the current Coronavirus (Covid -19) outbreak, the Private Sector Housing Officers will be running an adapted service.

With lockdown instigated once more, we have now amended our guidance notes for residents to advise you of how our service will be operated during the lockdown period.

This is subject to availability of officers (as they may need to self-isolate) and will be reviewed according to the level of lockdown imposed by the government at any given time.

From Monday 14 December 2020 until further notice

  • Only urgent or essential home visits will be carried out. Urgent means that there is an imminent risk of severe harm due to a defect with the property and only if there is no other way of instigating remedial works without a visit in person.
  • Essential means where it is evident that hazards which could cause harm are present and where there is no other possible way of establishing the facts in order to take an appropriate course of action (i.e. enforcement action).

Telephone assessments

  • If a visit, that has been identified as urgent, takes place, the officer will first telephone the customer and establish whether anyone in the household is self-isolating or feeling unwell.
  • We will risk assess the situation and make a decision whether to visit.
  • If we do visit, we will take the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions.

We will give instructions to the occupiers to follow prior and during our visit. 

Failure to adhere to these instructions will mean that the visit will not take place.

Social distancing and hygiene

  • For more information on this please visit GOV.UK website for further information and guidance to protect our community. 
  • Officers will be maintaining the two metre social distance at all times and will ask you to remain in another room whilst inspections take place.

Virtual inspections

  • We will be trialling "virtual inspections" where possible. This relies upon the customer having a smart phone or tablet and the installation of a video messaging application such as WhatsApp, Zoom or Google Duo.
  • If a video call can be placed, we will ask the customer to show us the areas of concern within their home so that we can assess whether hazards are present to the best of our abilities.
  • If you do not have a smart phone, you could ask a friend or family if they would be willing to help you.
  • By doing this, it means we can deal with your situation much quicker.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Occupants of HMOs should take extra precaution when using shared facilities.

  • Try to only use the kitchen when other people are not in it and clean the toilet and bathroom before and after use.
  • Only urgent visits will be carried out where there is an imminent risk to harm due to a defect within the property.
  • Licences up for renewal or new HMO applications will be dealt with in an orderly manner, including payments.
  • Relevant inspections will be arranged at a later date

Changes in your health 

If your health changes between the time of booking the visit and the visit taking place, you should contact us immediately.  We will then reassess and either carry out a virtual inspection or postpone the visit.

Waiting list cases

  • Any cases currently on our waiting list will still be taken off the list in priority order as usual.
  • Customers will receive a telephone assessment and virtual inspection where possible.
  • If you feel that your property has become worse and the risk to yourself or family has increased, you should contact us so a decision can be made if a virtual inspection is suitable.

Completion visits

  • Where landlords have arranged for works to be completed, we will endeavour to set up a virtual inspection with the occupant to allow sign off.
  • This may not be possible where multiple flats are involved, but we will do as much as we can under the circumstances and then may have to revisit in person when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
  • We will notify the landlord and tenant whether a further visit is necessary or whether we can close the case by doing a virtual inspection only.

Landlords and their contractors

  • Whilst we will make every effort to ensure that the defects and hazards within your home are remedied, this may take longer than usual due to the circumstances of the landlord (as they may be self- isolating or unwell) and of the contractors' availability and visiting policies.
  • Where urgent works are required we will expect the landlord to make their best endeavours to find a contractor who can visit and remedy the hazards and to keep a record and provide evidence of the actions they have taken. 
  • Our approach to enforcement will be adjusted to take into account the different circumstances that the Covid 19 pandemic presents.
  • Further advice for landlords can be found at on the Lanlords.org.uk website

Immigration inspections

  • We will try to arrange virtual inspections where possible,  but this will be after the applicant has confirmed that their visa application will still be able to be submitted.
  • There are travel restrictions in place for certain countries.  If travel is restricted the immigration inspection will be postponed until those restrictions are lifted.

Disabled facility grants

  • Disabled facility grants will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
  • All non-critical cases will be dealt with in order of need.
  • Any visits to client's homes will be dependent on the client agreeing to a visit and the current practices that our partner agencies (Peabody and KCC) have in place.
  • External works which entail no direct contact between the client and contractor are likely to continue until further notice.

This information will be subject to change to keep in line with central government instructions and the resource needs of the council as a whole.

Issue date: 14 Dec 2020

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