THE Housing Minister has urged Islanders living in sub-standard accommodation not to suffer in silence this winter – and even contact him directly.
Deputy David Warr also indicated his support for a proposed private-rental licensing scheme, which has been proposed by Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf.
Deputy Warr said: ‘I appreciate some tenants may feel worried about coming forward to report sub-standard housing, but living in unfit accommodation can have massive implications and impacts on physical and mental health, sometimes with long consequences.
‘I urge people to come forward and to contact me directly should they wish so we can make sure that it gets followed up. Let’s find out where the gaps are – and we can only do that if people in the Island come forward, obviously [those who do so] will be treated confidentially.’
Deputy Warr’s comments come as debate rages in the UK over accommodation standards, after a coroner ruled that a toddler had died as a result of mould in his family’s rented flat.
Despite repeated complaints from the family of Awaab Ishak, starting before the child was born, their landlord did not carry out repairs to alleviate the problem.
The housing association in Rochdale, which rented the flat, has been stripped of £1 million of funding, and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing chief executive Gareth Swarbrick has been sacked.
Deputy Warr said he was working ‘closely’ with Deputy Renouf and was ‘supportive of the need for a private-rented dwellings licensing scheme, to give inspectors greater powers to enforce remedial action’.
He added: ‘At this time of year many Islanders will feel the impact of the colder, damper, darker weather, and I’d encourage all landlords to take time to ensure they’re providing accommodation to the appropriate standards.’
Former Housing Minister Deputy Sam Mézec has urged the government to act more swiftly to protect tenants who live in damp, mouldy and poorly insulated homes, rather than waiting until next year to launch the scheme to tackle the problem.
He said: ‘The government should not delay and should introduce a full landlord-licensing system as a matter of priority.
‘The current system, which requires tenants to complain before their homes are inspected, puts off many tenants because of the lack of security of tenure provided in our Residential Tenancy Law.’
Deputy Mézec called the current system a reactive one, saying rented homes were not routinely inspected, leaving some tenants afraid to complain in case they lost their home, making it inevitable that some ‘would suffer’ as a result this winter.
Deputy Mézec said: ‘We know many tenants are scared to make complaints in case they are subjected to a revenge eviction.
This will be exacerbated by the cost of living and housing crises, as it will discourage tenants from doing anything to risk losing their homes.
‘As winter develops, it is inevitable that people will suffer because of poor insulation and maintenance of their homes.’
Deputy Renouf announced on Friday that he intended to put forward proposals to introduce a licensing scheme for the regulation of private rented dwellings in the new year.
He said: ‘We have a significant problem with unsafe and squalid private rented dwellings in Jersey and we simply cannot stand by and allow that to continue.
‘Poor-quality housing has a knock-on effect in terms of physical and mental health, educational attainment and general life chances and opportunities.’
He added that he looked forward to working with the Jersey Landlords’ Association and other stakeholders to develop the detail of the scheme.
The most recent attempt to introduce a licensing scheme was defeated by a single vote in the States Assembly following several debates on the matter.