Cracking down on rogue landlords

Landlords of up to 18,500 homes in Newcastle may need a licence as part of plans to raise standards in the private rented sector.

The plan will be considered by Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet on Monday October 15 along with approval for an extensive public consultation exercise to give the public the chance to have their say.

In the last five years the council has received over 9,000 complaints about damp, fire safety and disrepair – 77 per cent of which are in the proposed licensing area. Thousands more complaints were received about anti-social behaviour, litter, fly-tipping and noise.

Since 2001 privately rented properties in the city have grown from 14,000 to over 24,000 – that’s 20 per cent of the city’s housing market. Many are in disrepair and would not meet minimum housing conditions, and while most landlords are responsible, others are not, and some are exploiting tenants by letting out unsuitable and dangerous properties.

Deputy council leader Cllr Joyce McCarty, who has responsibility for housing, said: “The private rented sector has grown substantially over the past few years.

“The vast majority of landlords are aware of their legal responsibilities, but many are not. When times are tough resources are scarce and the cost of dealing with anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood decline falls increasingly on the council which has also suffered huge budget cuts of its own.

“A large-scale licensing scheme will give tenants greater choice of safe, good quality and well managed housing, neighbourhoods, and reduce anti-social behaviour.”

There are two existing selective licensing schemes in the city; Greater High Cross and Byker Old Town which cover 740 properties.

Under the new proposals a new selective licensing area would be created taking in 4,265 properties ranging from Walker in the East through to Cowgate in the North and Benwell to the West.

In addition, a city-wide Additional Licensing scheme for smaller Houses in Multiple Occupation with three or four people sharing could be introduced (9,377 properties).

To apply selective licencing to the remaining 4,857 properties would require the approval of the Secretary of State – a legal requirement when more than 20 per cent of housing is to be licensed under selective licensing.

Although the licence fee cannot be determined until after consultation it is estimated that a selective licence will cost £650 and an additional licence £750.

Licences would last up to five years and a landlord who did not have one could be prosecuted.

A major consultation exercise will begin on Monday, November 5 and run until Sunday, January 27, 2019 – 12 weeks.

An online survey can be filled in at   from November 5 and a series of drop-in sessions will take place at the City Library on Tuesday, November 20, 5pm to 7pm; Tuesday, December 4, 1pm to 3pm and Monday, January 14, 2019, 5pm to 7pm.