Licensing scheme extension deferred

COUNCILLORS have agreed to delay plans to extend a landlord licensing scheme to include 1,200 more homes.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee met recently to discuss the selective licensing scheme which aims to crackdown on anti-social behaviour from tenants and improve the housing standards of landlords.

The scheme was first introduced in Hartlepool two years ago and since then there has been 558 licences issued.

Earlier this summer a consultation was launched with a view to extending it in nine other areas but officers recommended it be delayed until they have assessed how successful it has been.

It comes after an audit review in July put forward a series of recommendations to improve the application, assessment, approval and enforcement processes.

Cabinet members agreed to the delay until the first phase has been evaluated.

A further report will go back to members in 12 months.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, who said it is important to take tougher action on landlords who do not comply, added: “It is important that we get it right before we extend it.

“I have the utmost confidence that this will be implemented very quickly but it is right that we take the time to give them the opportunity to do that.”

Labour councillor Ged Hall added: “I am disappointed but I take officers advice if they feel it takes more looking at.”

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Robbie Payne added: “What is important is that the residents in the licence areas have full confidence in the scheme.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond added: “The cabinet has been a big supporter of it and it is a big tool if we get it right.”

A report by Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration and planning, said the objective was to improve the housing management standards of the landlords in the designated areas.

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.

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.