Landlords are to be offered cash incentives to repair and improve rental properties which are under par. The pilot scheme has been launched in Oldham to improve rental stock so that it meets the minimum housing standards. Oldham Council is also hoping the pilot scheme will increase awareness about rental property standards and increase the supply of properties to rent.

The council will introduce minimum property standards and landlords will be given a cash incentive to meet those standards when they sign a contract with the local authority. Demand for rental properties is rising in Oldham, which is why the local authority is eager to improve standards. Tenants will then have a wider choice of better quality properties to choose from. At present, there is an acute lack of social housing within the local authority area, with demand far outstripping supply. The council, therefore, has come up with this scheme in a bid to encourage more people to look at the private rental sector to meet their housing needs. Oldham has a fair proportion of terraced houses built before the First World War, which are outdated and need modernising. The scheme will, hopefully, encourage landlords to invest in these properties to bring them up to standard.

As part of the scheme, and another great idea, is that landlords who sign up to the council’s initiative will be backed by a bond scheme. This guarantees that the landlords can claim from the local authority if tenants do not leave the property in a good condition when they move out. The claim will be around one month’s rent.

According to a report by the principal housing market intervention officer for Oldham Council, Albert Margai, demand in Oldham for social housing is triple that of its neighbouring authorities of Tameside, Rochdale and Bury. This is putting the private rental sector under enormous pressure to meet the housing needs of residents. According to Mr Margai, record numbers of people have contacted Oldham Housing Advice Service for support.

If successful, this scheme would work well in many other local authorities. Many districts have old housing stock, which is presumably cheap to invest in, and would make suitable rental properties if they had money spent on them. Local authorities are not in a position to provide social housing and by working with the private rental sector in this way, they can provide quality housing for their local residents.

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