Licensing for North Somerset landlords 'not off the table'

Black mould is among the problems highlighted at rental properties

Black mould is among the problems highlighted at rental properties - Credit: LDRS

A housing advocate is calling for a crackdown on rogue landlords who prey on vulnerable people in Weston.

Alan Rice, of Weston Housing Action, said previous plans for a licensing scheme were shelved in 2016 after North Somerset Council (NSC) was threatened with a costly legal challenge.

In what he described as a 'seemingly Faustian pact', it was replaced with a self-accreditation scheme, but without regular inspections by the authority tenants were living in freezing, mouldy homes. 

Mr Rice told scrutiny panel members on February 24: "For over five years I’ve been bringing rogue landlords to the attention of the council and can assure they are still out there, preying on vulnerable tenants.

"One landlord, Allan Simpson, was brought to justice last year and was fined £15,000 for failing to improve housing conditions. 

"His business went into receivership. As far as I’m aware he wasn’t put on the national register of rogue landlords. 

"Mr Simpson’s properties were sold to new landlords, with the tenants often remaining, but several of the properties haven’t improved."

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Mr Rice said flats were being rented out that were cold, damp and 'covered in black mould' that would have been inspected had the licensing scheme been introduced, along with more than 5,000 other properties.

The £320 licences for Weston’s Central and Hillside wards were designed to raise the standard of rented accommodation, but landlords claimed ‘rogues’ could be targeted by other means.

The meeting heard that they raised £12,000 for a judicial review but the cash was put into the self-accreditation scheme after the council backed down. 

Mr Rice said former council leader Nigel Ashton assured him that licensing would remain an option, but landlords had publicly 'crowed' that it was 'dead and buried'.

Howard Evans, the council’s head of private sector housing, told the meeting that licensing was not off the table.

He said a comprehensive stock condition survey would give the council the evidence base to consider some form of licensing, and there are also proposals for a national landlord registration scheme. 

Anyone can report concerns about a rogue landlord, letting agent or a rented property at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/roguelandlord.