Private housing work is praised

Cornwall Street.  Picture by FRANK REID
Cornwall Street. Picture by FRANK REID

A REPORT highlighting the work being done to improve conditions for private sector housing tenants in Hartlepool has been backed.

A five-month inquiry by Hartlepool Borough Council’s neighbourhood services scrutiny forum into the effectiveness of private sector housing schemes has discussed selective licensing, landlord accreditation, good tenant schemes and policies for dealing with empty homes.

The final report, presented recently to the council’s cabinet committee, found:

• The council is winning the war with anti-social tenants after revealing a huge drop in the number of nuisance incidents.

During the course of the last financial year, more than 60 notices had been served to tackle nuisance caused by people in occupied properties and there has been a dramatic decline in the number of complaints received about nuisance properties – from 99 in the first quarter of the year to 48 in the last;

• Over the last financial year 66 empty properties had been brought back into use by their owners – against a target of 57;

• Major progress has also been made in tackling a list of 20 properties which have been empty the longest.

In almost all cases, their owners have now either brought them back into use, have firm plans to do so or are facing action by the council to compel them to do so.

Mayor Drummond said: “It is a fantastic piece of work.

“The area of housing affects all members and it is such a complex and moving beast that trying to pull it all together is a difficult job but you have done a cracking job.

“There is some really good stuff in there.

“We are moving in the right direction and the work in the report reinforces that.

“I am also pleased that the landlords have played a big part in this.”

Mayor Drummond said housing is a key aspect of work and whichever councillor is given the housing portfolio role within the cabinet after Thursday’s all-out election has a big part to play.

He said: “Whoever has the housing portfolio has a big job on and I would expect them to work closely with scrutiny.”

Mayor Drummond added the Government could still do more nationally to support what the council is trying to do locally.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson said: “A lot of work has gone into this.

“The recommendations are all very valid and can be put in place without a lot of cost to the local authority.”

Meanwhile, in terms of the selective licensing scheme, 43 licences were issued to landlords in the town’s selective licensing areas in 2011-12, taking the total number licensed to 569, and more than 200 inspections have been made of licensed properties to ensure landlords maintain their properties to the required standards.

Councillors from the scrutiny forum urged caution at the cabinet meeting about rolling out the selective licensing scheme in other areas too soon.

Members said it was important that residents had the confidence in the system.