Many Warwick students choose to make their home in the Canley and Cannon Park area of our local community during their studies, often in privately rented accommodation.
As part of our community engagement work, the University and Coventry City Council have joined forces to appoint Steven Chantler, Senior Housing Enforcement Officer, to focus on improving the local housing environment, for the benefit of both our students and long term residents.
So, is it all like BBC’s The Housing Enforcers? We spoke to Steven to find out more about his role and how he works with students, landlords and our neighbours.
There’s no such thing as a typical day, but in brief, my role involves…
My role can be varied, but essentially Housing Enforcement deal with problems that emanate from the private rented sector… so in a typical day I could be investigating an illegal eviction, inspecting properties in disrepair, or dealing with neighbour disputes if one property becomes a statutory nuisance. The type of work we do can often involve interviewing suspects under caution, which on occasions results in us appearing in court.
How does your role support - and challenge - landlords?
I am always happy to support landlords who are co-operative and will happily advise them on issues relating to their properties in an effort to enhance the students’ experience. I also encourage them to become accredited with a recognised scheme.
Conversely, where landlords continue to flout the laws I aim to take a robust approach to deal with these issues.
How are you working with the local community?
I have already met with the Cannon Park Community Association and the Canley Stakeholders Group, both of which have been fantastic and seem to see my post as a welcome addition. I work closely with both to establish their main areas of concern and have formulated a set of 'hot streets' where there seems to be a lot of rented accommodation. I will be focusing my proactive inspections within these particular areas. I will be meeting with both groups on a regular basis to discuss any concerns they have, but have also made myself a single point of contact for them to report issues directly to me.
To date the feedback I have received has been good. I think residents’ groups are pleased that I can respond quickly with any issues they have, without needing to navigate the council’s reporting system.
What’s the impact of your work for student tenants?
A major part of my work involves proactively inspecting many of the shared houses in Canley and Cannon Park, known as Houses in Multiple Occupation. This will ensure that students are living in safe, clean, well-managed accommodation and will enable them to focus their attention to their studies rather than worrying about housing issues.
How did you get involved in this area of work?
I was a police officer for a relatively short time, and soon realised that long shifts and working when everyone else was enjoying life was not for me! So, I joined Coventry City Council’s Housing Enforcement team in 2005. Luckily the role also allowed me to gain qualifications in surveying at Coventry University.
What did you know about the University of Warwick before you started working with us?
I was aware of its reputation as one of the leading universities, and in particular the work done with local schools in the area. My daughter was involved in the gifted and talented programme a few years back; she’s now in her second year at sixth form and is considering attending Warwick once she’s completed her A levels.
What would you like to achieve over the next year?
I certainly want to improve the private rented stock within the area, which in turn will enhance the students’ experience whilst they are staying in Coventry, and improve the standard of landlords operating in the area. I hope that this will also strengthen the relationship between the University and the wider community.