A Hartlepool housing landlord has called for action to improve a rundown street after one of his properties was broken into four times in less than a month.
Charles Scott, who owns 17 houses in the town, says high crime and social problems are creating ‘no go areas’ where property values have halved and houses cannot be let.
He has called for more to be done to support landlords and improve Devon Street, off Oxford Road, where a large proportion of houses are boarded up or empty.
Hartlepool Borough Council says a working group involving the local authority and other agencies has been set up to look at issues in the area and a masterplan is to be developed to support potential regeneration funding bids.
Mr Scott owns two houses in Devon Street, one has been broken into four times in recent weeks; twice over Christmas, once earlier this month and again last week.
The criminals caused an estimated £7,000 of damage by ripping out the fire, boiler and pipes causing flooding and also causing other destruction.
They even stole the metal front door handle.
Mr Scott said: “I have been a landlord in Hartlepool since about 2002.
“The situation has deteriorated in this area over the last six to 12 months.”
He said problems around social housing had reached a ‘tipping point’ adding: “The situation means there’s a drop in values,” he added.
“Properties are empty and as a consequence being targeted by people who have no regard for the law.
“We need the support of the council. The only way is to take a more active hand in supporting the area.”
Mr Scott said the tenants in his other house in the street want to move out because of the high crime, which has seen his insurance premiums treble.
He has also blamed government policies including Universal Credit which he says are hindering secure tenancies.
Under the previous housing benefit tenants’ rent was received directly by landlords.
But with Universal Credit, Mr Scott says tenants are more likely to get into debt and disappear, and families with more than two children are unable to claim it.
Mr Scott said: “The rest of the country seems to be begging for housing, but properties in this neighbourhood can’t be let because they are derelict.
“The police have failed demonstrably to respond to the lawlessness, which is compounding the situation.”
Cleveland Police said they deploy resources based on threat, harm and risk combined with professional judgement and resource availability.
Regarding Universal Credit, the Department for Work and Pensions said: “From February, Universal Credit will be available to all family sizes.
“Direct payments to landlords are available and we have recently announced that we will be making it easier for private landlords to request rent and recover arrears.”
What the council says...
Council chiefs say only by working together with other key stakeholders can they tackle the issues highlighted by landlord Charles Scott.
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “We acknowledge the concerns expressed about issues affecting this area, including housing market failure, low demand for properties, crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The council cannot hope to tackle these problems on its own – and nor should they be our sole responsibility – so a working group has been set up to bring together key council officers and, crucially, representatives from other organisations with statutory responsibilities in the area and powers of intervention, including the police.
“Only by working together and pooling all organisational resources will we be able to achieve the best outcome for the area and its residents.
“The council has also secured £31,000 from the Government to commission an ‘Intervention Masterplan’ with the aim of developing an evidence-based business case which not only looks at the cost of various regeneration options for the area, but also the impact and cost of not doing anything.”
The council said while the study does not in itself represent the start of intervention, it will be of ‘vital assistance’ in supporting bids for funding should money become available nationally in the future.