housing - private landlords

Council officers could soon have the power to inspect every private rented property in one of the most deprived areas of Crewe, writes Stephen Topping.

Cheshire East Council is considering introducing selective licensing in an area to the west of Crewe station – including parts of Nantwich Road, Edleston Road and Mill Street.

The move is designed to drive up housing standards by forcing landlords to apply for a licence, which would include strict conditions for improving the quality of homes, while CEC would inspect every property in the area.

Meanwhile, the council is also considering an ‘Article 4 Direction’ for the Nantwich Road, West Street and Hungerford Road areas of Crewe – meaning landlords would have to apply to CEC to convert a property into a house of multiple occupation (HMO).

“I’m really pleased to see this come forward,” said Cllr Suzanne Brookfield, Labour CEC member for Crewe East, at a scrutiny meeting on Monday where the plans were discussed.

“Inevitably I believe it would raise standards, because some of the accommodation we have seen in the areas of Crewe have been absolutely deplorable.

“House prices in Crewe have been driven down by the private rental sector, and those of us who own homes in Crewe have had to live with the difficulties that has brought on.”

In choosing an area to introduce selective licensing, CEC officers looked at parts of the borough where more than 19 per cent of housing is in the private rental sector.

They then considered areas where there are high levels of anti-social behaviour, deprivation, fly-tipping, migration and poor property conditions.

If approved, CEC’s selective licensing policy would last for five years – but officers claimed there are risks, as landlords put off by the scheme could look to offload their properties in south Crewe and let out properties to low standards elsewhere.

Cllr David Jefferay, independent member for Wilmslow East, was unconvinced by the idea.

He said: “I’m just wondering what we are actually trying to achieve by having selective licensing. It’s the wider strategy that will address the problem, not the licensing.

“I’m a landlord and in the areas where I have got property in Liverpool and Scotland it does not make one jot of difference.

“It’s just an extra cost to the landlord and we are going to drive them away.”

But Cllr Peter Groves, Conservative, welcomed the idea of carrying out inspections to ensure homes are safe.

“We constantly read stories in the press about horror stories about some privately-rented accommodation where very scant regard has been paid to [safety],” he said.

“One of the benefits of selective licensing is we will be able to go in without being invited and check on this – and therefore raise standards.”

For HMOs, landlords currently require planning permission for properties that would house seven or more people, but an Article 4 Direction would mean planning permission is needed for all HMOs.

The three areas chosen for the policy each have large numbers of HMOs, along with environmental concerns such as fly-tipping.

CEC’s cabinet is expected to consider the policies in December, and public consultation would take place before a final decision is made next year.

One Comment

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    The problem is with HMO accommodation is that the landlords do not inspect the condition of the properties frequently, and if they are not managed and cared for well an area soon starts to look shabby.

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