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Barnet councillors have backed proposals to crack down on badly run property investments and HMOs in the area that are exploiting vulnerable tenants.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have backed proposals to improve tenant safeguards by creating a hotline directly linked to the council’s environmental enforcement team. Tenants will be able to use the line to report negligent landlords.
The parties also vowed to use civil penalities to prosecute offenders. They pledged to commission a working group in order to identify where in the borough the selective licensing scheme will bring the most impact.
The implementation of a selective licensing scheme would mean that potential landlords would need to apply for a license if they want to rent out a property so that the council is able to ensure that they are a fit and proper person to do so.
During a meeting of Barnet Citizens Assembly last week a Middlesex University student described a nightmare experience when she moved into a property with no toilet. The landlord was earning £600 from each of the four tenants renting the property, yet failed to carry out the necessary repairs. The students were threatened with eviction if they continued to complain about the state of the house.
Following this, Labour leader councillor Barry Rawlings promised to recruit 30 police officers to accompany environmental health officers on visits to rogue landlords by council enforcement teams. He also vowed to introduce a tenants’ charter to ensure people are aware of their legal rights regarding rogue landlords.
Council leader Richard Cornelius, a Conservative, also backed the propsals.
A spokesperson for Barnet Citizens said: ‘Barnet Citizens welcomes the commitments from Councillor Cornelius and Councillor Rawlings to tackle rogue landlords as well as celebrate our good landlords in Barnet. We were delighted to have clear commitments to work with us on our three proposals.’
Vice-president of Middlesex University Students’ Union, Joe Cox, added: ‘I was really impressed by the willingness of both Councillor Rawlings and Councillor Cornelius to meet with us last night and engage with our action plan for better housing in Barnet.’
He continued: ‘Across the borough we are seeing communities of people having their lives ruined by bad housing, which is why it was so exciting to see these two political leaders commit so clearly to exploring the idea of selective licensing, with Councillor Rawlings promising to do this as soon as elected and Councillor Cornelius agreeing to explore the idea and keep Barnet Citizens informed of what they find. It was also great to see them both commit to pursuing rogue landlords through civil penalties, and committing to setting up proper, functional reporting structures for tenants who believe that their landlords are acting criminally.’