Landlords hit back following Clarkson’s ‘disgusting bedsits’ slur

Blackpool landlords are angry at how they and their properties are being portrayed in the national media.'Landlord Bob Jackson outside his Courtfields property on Hornby Road.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-10-2015

Blackpool landlords are angry at how they and their properties are being portrayed in the national media.'Landlord Bob Jackson outside his Courtfields property on Hornby Road. PIC BY ROB LOCK'28-10-2015

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Landlords today hit back at claims Blackpool is full of ‘slum’ bedsits, dragging the town’s reputation down.

The resort’s rented accommodation sector has come under fire recently with national media reports saying many tenants are living in poor conditions in shared houses (known as houses in multiple occupation or HMOs).

Everyone thinks all landlords live in Barbados and let our tenants live in squalor, and it is wrong

Stuart King

TV celebrity Jeremy Clarkson waded into the debate saying the town’s “disgusting” bedsits had been turned into a “cesspit of awfulness and disease”.

Days later, Loose Women star Coleen Nolan branding the resort ‘a hen and stag binge-drinking hellhole’.

Now, landlords managing hundreds of properties have hit back at those claims, sparked by a national story centred on two bedsits in the town.

While landlords accept not all properties are kept up to standard, they say they are sick of being ‘tarred with the same brush’ – and are opposing a selective licensing scheme which will force them to pay for those who do not keep properties to a higher standard.

Stuart King, who owns 20 properties in Blackpool – including HMOs – said: “I don’t know why we are being depicted as Disney villains. We are hard-working people and our properties are our investment so we have to maintain them.

“The vast majority are of a good standard. I am accredited with the National Landlords Association and we are already subjected to enforcement, for example gas safety regulations.

“One of my student properties has a TV in the bathroom, a cinema room and a dance studio. They are not horrible bedsits.”

Stuart, who got into the property business after graduating from Blackpool and the Fylde College, says he has invested around £1m converting run-down properties into decent accommodation.

Fellow landlord Bob Jackson said the recent bad publicity for landlords in Blackpool is grossly unfair.

Bob owns a number of flats inside Courtfields on Hornby Road and says his tenants are mostly professional people.

He added: “Landlords in the town were aghast to see Blackpool lambasted in the national media recently by the portrayal of a tiny proportion of HMOs.

“It was based on two out of 16,770 properties in Blackpool in the private rented sector.

“It was a tarnished view of what the town has to offer. Then Jeremy Clarkson picked up on it and reworked the same story, causing further angst among the huge majority of good landlords.”

The duo spoke out after 200 landlords took part in a meeting to oppose the selective licensing scheme.

Stuart is facing a bill of £10,000 from the council.

He said: “Everyone thinks all landlords live in Barbados and let our tenants live in squalor, and it is wrong.”

Bob said he already pays nearly £1,000 a year in management fees – but now faces a five-yearly bill of between £600 and £700 per property under selective licensing.

He added: “There has been massive opposition from good landlords to selective licensing, and they have vocalised to senior council officers that they already keep their properties up to standard.

“The National Landlords Association has swung into the fray indicating councils have more than enough powers and resources to tackle perceived deprivation.

“I took a prospective tenant to view some garages on Back Cunliffe Street, and there was rubbish piled high at the side of the road. I’ve rung the council about eight times since September 7 to report it, but it is still there. It is an absolute hypocrisy the council is targeting us when they are not even bothered to clean up rubbish themselves.”

Blackpool Council has already introduced selective licensing in parts of South Shore and in Claremont, and is currently consulting on a scheme for the central area of the town. They say they need to tackle those landlords, who largely live out of town, who

do not invest in their properties and allow tenants to live in squalid conditions.

It is hoped selective licensing will drive up housing standards.

But Conservative group leader on Blackpool Council Coun Tony Williams has questioned how well the scheme is running.

He said: “I support the scheme providing the ongoing partnership requirements are being delivered. However, the overall figures do not provide, as yet, positive evidence the scheme is value for money and there is a question as to how the £900,000 in fees collected have and are being spent.

“The income should be ring-fenced and the council is not allowed to make a profit from selective licence fees.

“Also, I feel they are tarring everyone with the same brush. It is a blanket approach but one size doesn’t fit all.

“There are landlords who live outside Blackpool and don’t look after their properties, but there are a lot who are doing a good job already.”

The council says charges

fund the running of the scheme,

including enforcement.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We have explained the purpose of the selective licensing programme to The Gazette on countless occasions over the past five years. It is part of a suite of policies designed to tackle rogue landlords, and it enjoys huge public support.

“The programme has been recognised nationally as having a positive effect on our communities, I am very pleased how it is working.”