Rogue landlords could face court after council clamp-down

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:15 28 June 2016

Terrace housing

Terrace housing

Steve Lovegrove

Rogue landlords in Weston-super-Mare could be prosecuted by the council in the authority’s latest attempt to tackle the town’s poor quality housing issue.

A new council report says people living in the deprived town centre face a lifetime of bad health, poor housing, high crime and poverty.

A third of the ward’s privately-rented homes are described by the council as being of a ‘non-decent’ standard, meaning they are blighted by problems such as mould, cold and fire hazards.

On Tuesday, the council’s executive agreed to launch a new licensing scheme for rented homes in the town centre.

Deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees said: “Not all properties are in a bad condition but this does give tenants some reassurance that if they get rented accommodation in the area they know it will be of a good standard.”

The licence will cover all privately-rented houses in Central ward and part of Hillside.

Landlords will get three months to buy a £320 licence, starting in September. If they do not have a licence by November the council will investigate and landlords could be taken to court.

The licence will carry a minimum standard criteria and anyone not meeting the standards will face council enforcement action and could be prosecuted.

The court can impose fines and the council can take over the management of the property.

But poor-quality housing is not the town’s only problem, as it also has the lowest life expectancy in the district and more than a third of its children are growing up in poverty, according to a council document.

Ward councillor Mike Bell says bolder action needs to be taken and said: “In simple terms, not enough is being done.

“It feels a bit like there is a constant battle to get not just the council, but also the NHS and others, to take the issues seriously.

“The council often ends up coming out with these good words but it needs to act on them. Action speaks louder than words and it is really important that we keep on their case.”

A council spokesman said seven projects to improve life in Central ward had been awarded funding this year.

These projects include planting small edible gardens and community plots across the town centre, with one already planted in Clarence Park.

But ward councillor Richard Nightingale said the area’s problems are too big for the council and require intervention from Government.

Cllr Nightingale said: “Clearly this has not happened overnight and I would speculate these issues have been tens of years in the making, but that doesn’t change the result – which is nothing less than unacceptable.

“Much more needs to be done, which will involve levels of financial support which the council simply doesn’t have available.

“Central government, with its larger resources, has to play its part in the solution.”

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