THERE could be more than 1,000 unlicensed buildings used as rented homes in the district where crucial safety checks have not been made, new figures reveal.

Under the law, landlords of large residential premises shared by more than one household - such as bedsits or house-shares - have to get a local authority licence and prove their homes are safe to live in.

The licensing process involves gas safety and fire alarm checks, as well as criminal record checks on the landlords themselves.

Bradford Council guidance says this is because houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) often have the worst housing conditions and the greatest risk of fire, while their tenants can be among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.

But new research shows the vast majority of the district’s large HMOs may not have a licence at all - an offence which carries the penalty of an unlimited fine.

A housing standards team is now undertaking a programme of targeted checks across the district, a new report by Bradford Council reveals.

Councillor Val Slater, deputy leader of the Council, said this work was a strain on resources but was vitally important.

She said: “People’s safety is paramount. We do visit and if there are really dangerous hazards, we have got the authority to close them down.

“But I think what we try to do is work with landlords, give them a list of things they have to do and its only if they don’t do them that we will be taking them to court.”

But Councillor Jackie Whiteley, the opposition Conservatives’ spokesman for health, asked how the situation had arisen in the first place.

She said: “It is absolutely essential people are safe. It’s the first-and-foremost thing.”

Cllr Slater said regulations for landlords were “changing all the time” so some of them might not have known they required a licence.

A report on housing safety, by strategic director of place, Steve Hartley, will go before the Council’s regeneration overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow.

It says there are currently 265 licensed HMOs in the district, but modelling by advisory group BRE (Building Research Station) suggested there were about 1,399 which needed a licence.

The report says the housing standards team is now undertaking “proactive targeted surveys” to see whether these properties do require licences.

It says: “This has resource implications for the team but is an important piece of work, given the increased risks of such properties to their occupants.”

Cllr Slater said: “We are also visiting properties that were on the licensed list and have dropped off, to check why they have dropped off.”

The report also gives the committee a run-down of a separate, Government-funded crackdown on slum landlords which ran last year.

The £45,000 Rogue Landlord Project saw a Council team inspect 180 homes above shops and businesses such as take-aways.

They uncovered potentially fatal hazards in three-quarters of te properties inspected.

The project’s main aim was to identify high-risk premises where a fire was likely to result in serious harm or death, because of a lack of safety measures and escape routes.

Most of the problems were resolved informally.

But in 20 cases, formal notices were served under the Housing Act, including three emergency prohibition orders, which mean the flat cannot be occupied until the landlord fixes the problem.

In total, there had been ten properties where the fire risk would have justified shutting down the flats, but in the majority of these cases either the tenants moved out the same day to allow improvements to be made or the property was owner-occupied, so the owners were left with advice, information and smoke detectors.

All the inspected flats lay along one of three main routes into the city: Manchester Road, Leeds Road and Great Horton Road.

Cllr Slater said the grant was spent, but the work was continuing on a smaller-scale basis.

And she praised the housing standards team, saying they had undoubtedly saved lives, despite their small budget.

She said: “We are getting by on the goodwill of staff who are putting extra effort and extra hours in because they know how important their job is.”


l TWO Bradford landlords face prosecution for a raft of allegations relating to their tenants’ safety and quality of living.

Both cases were heard for the first time at Keighley and Bradford Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Ashgar Bad Shah, 36, of Paley Road, Bradford, appeared in court as landlord of a HMO in Tyersal Lane, Bradford, charged with five counts of failing to ensure his tenants had access to his contact details; that common areas of the property were maintained in good, clean and safe repair; that firefighting equipment and alarms were maintained in good working order; that outbuildings, yards and forecourts used by occupants were maintained and that windows and means of ventilation were kept in good repair.

He is also charged with harassing an occupier to give up her tenancy by cutting off her electricity supply.

Shah, who did not enter any plea, was allowed an adjournment in order to obtain legal representation.

The case was adjourned to March 17.

Hasan Kazi, 67, of Laisteridge Lane, Bradford, the owner of a HMO in Ashgrove, Bradford, faces a charge that the property had mouse, cockroach and bedbug infestations as well as rat holes.

He also faces allegations of failing to ensure his name, address and contact details were visibly displayed for all occupants to see; having fire escape routes and common areas obstructed with rubbish and large electrical items; failure to maintain fire alarms and firefighting equipment in good working order; and poor structural repair of windows and walls.

Kazi did not appear for the hearing and magistrates adjourned the case until March 31.