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A controversial plan to introduce a licensing scheme aimed at rooting out rogue landlords is to move forward after senior councillors agreed £50,000 should be spent on preparation work.
The licensing scheme will see landlords who rent out a property in problem areas having to pay up to £750 for a licence every five years.
The council will also gain more powers over who rents out properties including assessing whether a person is fit to be landlord and enforcing specific regulations, such as forcing landlord to adhere to certain safety measures.
Landlords who don’t comply with the scheme could face penalties of up to £30,000 and be banned from letting properties.
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, council leader Ian Gilbert admitted the plan was likely to be a “controversial issue” but stressed that this was only an agreement to investigate whether the scheme is feasible. and is not a commitment to go ahead.
He said: “There is always a concern that while good landlords continue to be good, there are too many landlords who are not and will not constructively engage with us.
“Anybody who has ever knocked on doors, campaigned or stood for election will know that housing in the private sector remains a problem.
“It is only right we look at the options we have to strengthen our hand with enforcement.”
Councillor Martin Terry, who oversees community safety, said: “There is a whole range of standards that can be addressed by this. It will be controversial but I believe its essential for our town.”
It has not been confirmed which areas the licence will cover but a report published ahead of the meeting described them as areas with “antisocial behaviour problems, crime and deprivation associated with poorly managed private rented accommodation”.
While the council is confident that the measure will help to force rogue landlords to make changes, the South East Alliance of Landlords has criticised the scheme as “grossly unfair”.
Judith Codarin, secretary of the alliance, said the council already has the power to identify places causing trouble but they do not do enough to use the powers they already have.