Landlord licensing to be extended after crime falls

Trading Standards at work in South Shore (L-R) Suzy Robertson, Coun Gillian Campbell, PC Natali Harper, Samantha Robinson, Donna Rigby and Alex Bracken. Below: An enforcement notice being placed on the front of a property in Bright Street, Blackpool.
Trading Standards at work in South Shore (L-R) Suzy Robertson, Coun Gillian Campbell, PC Natali Harper, Samantha Robinson, Donna Rigby and Alex Bracken. Below: An enforcement notice being placed on the front of a property in Bright Street, Blackpool.
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Criminality has dropped dramatically in an area of Blackpool targeted by a campaign to drive up accommodation standards.

Since selective licensing was introduced in parts of South Shore, crimes in the private rented sector have dropped by half.

An enforcement notice being placed on the front of a property in Bright Street, Blackpool.

An enforcement notice being placed on the front of a property in Bright Street, Blackpool.

Housing chiefs launched the scheme in March last year after the area became saturated with poor quality bedsits and flats.

It was claimed unruly tenants were making life a misery for law-abiding residents with drug-taking and drinking on the streets among the issues raised.

And it was decided to tackle landlords by forcing them to register for a licence for their properties in order to make them more responsible for the kind of tenants they were bringing into the area.

Since selective licensing was introduced, the number of criminal incidents has dropped to 333 compared to 720 the previous year, and 59 cases have been referred to the anti-social behaviour officer.

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for housing on Blackpool Council, said: “Nearly all the landlords have now got on board with the scheme and the area now feels cleaner and refreshed.

“It doesn’t feel quite as manic as before.

“I go out on inspections with the team and everyone is very highly visible and people know who to go to and speak to about their concerns.

“We have an anti-social behaviour officer and an excellent enforcement team.

“Of course there is a lot of transience in Blackpool and it is not easy to sort it out, but I feel people’s wellbeing starts with their housing and having a landlord who does not do repairs or leaves people living in damp rooms is not acceptable.

“We have engaged with some very vulnerable people through the scheme and are intervening earlier so hopefully they present fewer problems further down the line.”

Both local Waterloo councillors say they have seen a difference.

Coun David O’Hara said: “Powers have been used to get rid of troublesome tenants and it seems to be working okay.

“It is an awful lot better than it was 12 months ago.

“Landlords who were just buying up property cheaply and bringing the wrong type of people into the area are now realising they must be more responsible.”

Coun Tony Lee said: “It is making a big difference.

“A lot of landlords are from out of town and leave their properties in the hands of agents, but they are starting to get rattled now.”

Around 99 per cent of landlords have applied for a licence which last for five years costing from £690 for one household to £960 for up to five dwellings, and £60 for each additional dwelling.

Selective licensing is now set to be rolled out in the Claremont area with consultation due to begin on September 9.

The proposal will also see houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) subjected to additional licensing to help tackle dangerous housing conditions.

Coun Campbell said: “Claremont is an area which experiences similar problems to those encountered within South Beach back in 2011 when selective licensing began there.

“What we hope to do in Claremont is have a similar positive effect and make a real difference to people’s housing conditions by making landlords responsible for the behaviour of their tenants and the condition of their properties.

“However, we are open to all ideas and suggestions which is why we are holding an extensive consultation.

“At the end of the consultation we will analyse all of the responses and publish a new document, detailing the range of representations we receive and any changes to the proposals.” The proposed licensing fees will be outlined in the consultation document but will be broadly in-line with those applied in the South Beach area.

Discounts will apply to those who register early and landlords and managing agents who are members of professional bodies in order to encourage a professional approach towards property management.

Around 1,700 properties in total fall within the area, of which two thirds are single properties that would be subject to selective licensing, while a third are HMOs that would be part of the additional licensing scheme.

For details on the existing selective licensing scheme visit www.blackpool.gov.uk.

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