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Southend Council is set to consider a new £12 million licensing scheme for private buy to let investors in the borough.
Should the scheme be implemented, it would lead to up to 20,000 private landlords needing to pay £1000 for a licence to rent out their properties.
Rogue landlords who allow their tenants to live in squalor may also get their comeuppance. Many tenants are often reluctant to report a landlord who does not do his duty, however under the new scheme a poorly performing landlord could have his license revoked.
The proposals, which include three options, will be discussed by the policy and resources scrutiny committee today.
Southend Council rejected calls for a licensing scheme in 2012 and instead entered into an agreement with the South Essex Alliance of Landlords and Residents (SEAL).
This self-regulating scheme allowed landlords to police themselves. However, now that the town’s buy to let sector has rapidly expanded, calls for further action are beginning. There have also been claims that SEAL has not adequately managed to maintain standards.
The council is trying to consider the best way to use the Government’s recently introduced powers awarded to councils to deal with buy to let properties that fall below standard. Already, last year an opposition group called for a licensing scheme to replace the agreement with SEAL. However, eight councillors, who are also landlords, sought to vote on the issue which caused controversy as usually when councilors have a personal interest in a topic they abstain from voting. In this case they overturned the vote.
Southend Council will be given the option to revise the current system and use powers to deal with substandard properties in serious cases or run a quasi licensing scheme acting upon only certain landlords. A third option is to impose a full licensing scheme on landlords responsible for private rental properties. This would lead to about 20,000 homes involved.