Housing chiefs are poised to introduce stiff new measures to tackle anti-social behaviour in Blackpool’s holiday heartland triggered by the spread of cheap bedsit-style accommodation.
The council’s executive is being asked to approve an additional licensing scheme for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the town centre in order to force landlords to control unruly tenants.
One property in Vance Road became such a magnet for crime last year that police visited it 39 times in six months.
If approved, the Central additional licensing scheme would apply to around 700 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in a designated area between Blackpool Football Club at the south end, through the central Gateway area bordered by Seasiders Way and Central Drive, encompassing the town centre all the way to Talbot Road at the north end. The area will stretch inland as far as Devonshire Road.
These are smaller HMOS, typically two storeys high and housing three or more people living in two or more separate households, and which are not covered by national licensing schemes.
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “While this will serve as a stark warning to rogue landlords that they need to clean up their act, we hope this will be a positive move for responsible landlords, as cleaning up the local area should improve the attractiveness of their property and help them find better tenants.”
More than two thirds of residents backed the introduction of the scheme, citing drug dealing, rubbish dumping, nuisance neighbours and neglected properties among the problems blighting the area.
A council report says: “There is strong evidence that many landlords are willing to house tenants without references or who are known to have a history of causing problems in previous accommodation. Many properties offer such a poor quality of accommodation that it is only attractive to people who have no other choices and are willing to accept anything.”
Hoteliers have been battling for years for something to be done about the properties which have spread as more and more defunct hotels and guesthouses have been converted to bedsits.
A fifth of residential properties in central Blackpool (Brunswick, Talbot and Bloomfield wards) are HMOs compared to a national average of two per cent.
Figures show the area also has high levels of arson and anti-social behaviour with 2,128 reports of anti-social behaviour between April 2014 and March 2015 - with around half of calls coming from incidents at private rented accommodation.
The additional licensing scheme will mean landlords must comply with rules laid down by the council including maintaining their properties to a safe standard as well as a duty to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Fees for the licences, which will last five years, will range from £670 to £940.
Failing to apply for a licence could lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000, while landlords would face fines of £5,000 for each breach of a licence.
The Central additional licensing scheme would add to the current selective licensing scheme in South Beach area of the town and selective and additional licensing in the Claremont area.
Coun Campbell added: “Our current two selective and additional licensing schemes in South Beach and Claremont have been applauded across the country for their work in clamping down on rogue landlords and improving living conditions for Blackpool residents.
“The scheme has reduced the amount of anti-social behaviour in South Beach by 17 per cent and is starting to have an effect in Claremont too. That is beginning to have a positive effect on our communities and I’m very pleased with how it is working. Not only do the schemes make the area more habitable for tenants but they also cut down on anti-social behaviour and in turn improve the area for neighbours.”
Linda Thompson, of The Canda Hotel on Vance Road, said: “We have had problems with anti-social behaviour in this area.
“The council has made us a lot of promises but anything is better than nothing.”
The council consulted more than 7,000 local residents and landlords about the scheme, with 80 per cent of residents saying landlords should be responsible for dealing with problem tenants.