TRADING standards chiefs have launched their biggest ever crackdown on rogue landlords who rent out slum properties.
Blackpool Council is targeting dodgy homeowners who allow tenants to live in filthy, ‘third-world standard’ houses and bedsits.
People are flooding into the resort from all over Britain, attracted by rooms which are cheap to rent and do not require a bond.
Many are living in the resort without the council’s knowledge and some are wanted criminals.
Released prisoners are known to head to Blackpool – often because of the cheap accommodation advertised to them while behind bars.
But the battle against the dodgy landlords welcoming them in – no questions asked – begins now with town hall officials already visiting a number of properties and spot check raids are on the way.
The introduction of selective licensing will mean tighter controls on landlords.
Those wishing to house tenants in Blackpool will need an expensive licence to operate and prove they are working above board.
And landlords who refuse to play ball will be hit with a fine of up to £20,000 and risk having their properties closed down.
Alex Bracken, Blackpool Council’s housing enforcement officer, said: “This is about landlords taking responsibility for the state of their property and their tenants. There are people here who have come from all over the place and many are living in horrible, poor conditions. It isn’t right.
“The whole purpose of this crackdown is to make a community want to be proud of itself and the people who live there and that is what we’re going to achieve.
“Blackpool has had problems for a long time but I feel we are now closer than ever to really making a huge difference and major improvements.”
Selective licensing has begun in South Beach – the area between South and Central piers which contains some of the worst properties in town – and will be extended to the Claremont area next year.
The aim is to inspect every property, shut down the worst, punish rogue landlords and help people living in squalor.
Nine properties have already been closed, including one house on Charles Street, Blackpool, where three tenants living in dirty, dangerous conditions had caused £20,000 of damage.
Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for housing and enforcement on Blackpool Council, said: “We may not see the difference in a year, or even five years, but at some point I know we will be able to sit back and say ‘you know what we did something good’.
“We are fully supported by all other agencies, and the police have been able to arrest criminals we’ve found living at some properties. The whole council is behind this because we know it is starting to make a difference.
“I can definitely see a day when Blackpool becomes a desirable place to come and live.”
Clean-up powers to tackle problem
SELECTIVE Licensing targets private sector landlords – making sure they take responsibility for tenants and anti-social behaviour.
In South Beach (the area inland between South and Central piers) there are more than 800 properties where landlords are letting rooms.
Selective Licensing means each of those landlords is now required by law to purchase a licence from the council.
“It is all about landlords taking responsibility for tenants and anti-social behaviour, and whether landlords and fit and proper to obtain a license,” said Alex Bracken, Housing Enforcement Manager at Blackpool Council.
“We know a lot of anti-social behaviour in this town is coming from tenants in the private rented sector –so this is about sorting that out.”
A licence costs around £1,000 and lasts five years but the cost means that not everyone is happy.
“There was a huge consultation process beforehand. Lots of talks in the community with landlords and tenants - but, yes, we did get opposition from some landlords because some didn’t want to pay the money,” added Mrs Bracken.
The majority of landlords – 80 per cent – have bought a license. But that means a substantial number have yet to buy theirs. They are being warned to do so or face the consequences.
“In January we will start enforcement measures against the landlords that have failed to license,” added Mrs Bracken.
“We will start prosecution cases against them. We will recoup off them the rent that has been paid to them in the last 12 months, and on top of that they will face a £20,000 fine for not getting a licence.”
Blackpool’s form of Selective Licensing is unique because it involves every agency – police, fire service, paramedics – who work together.
“What we’re doing in Blackpool is not just doing Selective Licensing in isolation but bringing in other schemes as well – regeneration projects, housing developments on Rigby Road, giving other streets a facelift – so we are trying to improve whole area,” added Mrs Bracken.
“As well as that we’re bringing in a multi-agency inspection programme, so we are working with police, fire, social workers, mental health teams, alcohol and drug dependency and housing enforcement teams.
“We want to improve the condition of properties, how property is managed, and supporting people we find in those properties who are vulnerable and need out help.
“Basically we want to create a safe, stable community in Blackpool and we think we can do that.”