Backing for a landlord licensing scheme for the Melcombe Regis area of Weymouth is expected to go ahead.
If the idea is approved it will trigger the start of a consultation which may lead to all private landlords in the area having to sign up and comply with a set of minimum standards.
The borough council’s management committee, meeting on December 11, is being asked to back the project to drive up standards in the ward, one of the most deprived in the country.
It is expected to cost each landlord than £600 to register for up to a five-year period – equivalent to just £2.40 per week. The area has a very high proportion of privately rented property with almost half the homes in the ward rented privately in comparison to 18% for the borough as a whole. It also has 8 per cent of its homes rented from housing associations.
Almost half of the 2,000 properties in the proposed scheme area would need to be registered if it goes ahead – around 925 in total.
The public consultation and implementation could take almost a year to complete.
Housing Improvement Manager Geoff Joy has told borough councillors that he anticipates many landlords will fight the proposals and, even if approved, some would try and escape their obligations.
He said where the scheme had been tried elsewhere in the country it had led to improvements for tenants and had not resulted in landlords passing on the increase in their costs.
The council has been advised by experts from Salford City Council which has seven, similar, schemes in operation. They are expected to be at a meeting of the borough management committee on December 11 when councillors will be asked to formally agree to the scheme. The idea has the backing of the Melcombe Regis Board, the Police, Fire and Rescue and other statutory agencies.
If the scheme is approved a 10-week consultation is expected to start in the New Year, followed by an analysis of the results, a further report and then, if agreed, implementation by late summer next year at the earliest.
Fees from the landlords would pay for the staff needed with the project eventually administered by the new Dorset Council.
The licensing scheme involves the landlord proving they are a ‘fit and proper person’ and will cover safety standards for gas, water and electricity; having smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted; energy efficiency and adequate management which will include anti-social behaviour and crime as well as waste disposal.
Failure to comply with the scheme can have far-reaching consequences for landlords.
Mr Joy’s report says: “Where landlords fail to obtain a licence or breach licence conditions they commit a criminal offence. The local housing authority has the option to prosecute the offender in the criminal courts or issue a civil penalty. Where there is no reasonable prospect of a privately rented property becoming licensed then the local housing authority can make an interim management order and take legal control of the unlicensed property. These powers provide a strong deterrent to non compliant landlords and help improve overall standards in the private rented sector.”