Councillor insists Southend tenants will be ‘willing to swallow’ higher rent caused by landlord licencing

A councillor has said Southend residents will be “willing to swallow” increases in rent if it means living in good quality properties during a debate over the introduction of a landlord licensing scheme.

The council is looking to spend £50,000 on exploring whether to introduce the scheme that could see landlords in designated areas paying up to £750 per property every five years for a licence.

Council leaders believe it will help them raise the standards of rented properties and boost their ability to monitor landlords within the borough.

But members of the opposition Conservative group are reluctant to agree to the scheme over fears it will lead to a rise in the price of rent and impact the poorest residents.

During a Policy and Resources Scrutiny meeting on Thursday night, Conservative leader Councillor Tony Cox, said: “There will be a fee on landlords, that fee will inevitably be passed down to tenants and those who are really affected are those on the maximum level of housing benefit. It is those we will tip over that margin and it then becomes a real problem.

“It will have the impact of placing more burden and more strain on those who can least afford to pay their rent and who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Cllr Daniel Cowan (LAB) agreed that there could be an increase in rent but it is something residents are likely to accept. He explained he is a tenant in the private rented sector and has faced years of problems due to a “landlord who just doesn’t care”.

He continued: “We don’t stand up to our landlord because he can kick us out when he wants. We have two small children, if we kick up a fuss, he’ll just find someone else to pay the rent and then we’ll have to go to the added expense of moving our stuff, finding another place.

“Paying an extra £20 to £30 a month is nothing compared to paying £1,500 in a deposit, a month’s rent and £400 or £500 more because suddenly you find out the house on the next street is now going for a lot more than the three bedroom house you were renting. With all the additional stress and strain of those things, I actually think that people will be willing to swallow the additional cost to live in a good quality property.”

The leader of the council Cllr Ian Gilbert also defended the plan, claiming current policy does not allow the council to identify who is a landlord or if they are fit to rent a property.

He said: “The fact we can’t even insist landlords be a fit and proper person seems ridiculous. This will redress the balance in favour of council officers so that we can take action.”

Further discussion over the issue is due to take place at Southend’s full council meeting on October 24.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter