Landlord’s licences set for a delay

PROPOSED plans to extend a landlord licensing scheme to include 1,200 more homes look set to be delayed.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee is set to meet next week to discuss the scheme which aims to crackdown on anti-social behaviour from tenants and improve the housing standards of landlords.

A selective licensing scheme was first introduced in Hartlepool two years ago and there has since been 558 licences issued.

Earlier this summer the council launched a consultation with a view to extending it.

But officers are recommending the roll-out to nine other areas is delayed while they assess how successful the first phase has been.

An audit review was completed in July and a series of recommendations to improve the application, assessment, approval and enforcement processes were put forward.

A report by Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration and planning, said: “The objective of a selective licensing scheme is to improve the housing management standards of the landlords in the areas designated which, it is envisaged, will reduce anti-social behaviour and increase occupancy of the housing stock stabilising demand in the areas chosen.

“The council must be satisfied that designation will significantly assist them to improve social or economic conditions or to reduce or eliminate anti-social behaviour.

“It must also consider whether other courses of action are available that might provide an effective method of achieving those objectives.”

Mr Wilson added that while it is a useful tool, selective licensing is not the sole solution to all problems.

In order to get a licence, landlords must comply with a series of conditions including being a “fit and proper” person, manage their properties effectively, take up references for prospective tenants and take responsible steps to deal with complaints of anti-social behaviour.

Failure to license a property could lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000 and landlords could also be forced to re-pay all the rent monies received while the property is un-licensed.

Rented properties in a designated area are exempt from licensing if they are unoccupied or if they are provided by a Registered Social Landlord.

Some of the places that could be included if the scheme is rolled out include the St Oswald’s Street area, Thornton Street area, Burn Valley Road area, Burbank Street and Everett Street.

It means that private landlords who own property, or anyone who controls or manages property in these areas, would have to apply for a licence if the proposed areas are given the go-ahead in the future.

Members are asked to delay the extension of the scheme until the first phase has been evaluated.

A further report will go back in 12 months.

The cabinet committee is due to meet on Monday, September 26, at the Civic Centre, at 9.15am.