A LABOUR-run city council would launch a new licensing scheme to crack down on rogue landlords.
Labour in Brighton and Hove have unveiled plans to licence private sector landlords in a move they say will “strengthen tenants’ rights” and “root out unscrupulous landlords”.
The licensing system, which has been launched in a small number of other local authorities across the country, would see landlords pay a “small” fee for a five-year licence to rent out properties.
Opposition councillors questioned the effectiveness of the scheme pointing to trials elsewhere in the country which had found the scheme to be “costly,” “ineffective” and “open to legal challenge”.
Labour’s housing spokeswoman Chaun Wilson said that landlords would have to demonstrate their ability to maintain their property to “pre-agreed standards” to the council before being granted a licence.
The council would have the power to fine landlords who fail to register with the scheme and recover any rents or housing benefits paid while a property was not licensed. The party say they want to build on the success of the current HMO licensing scheme in the city and the rental licensing scheme in areas such as Newham in London where the council has successfully taken action against more than 100 landlords since February 2013.
Brighton and Hove has one of the highest proportion of renters in the country with almost three in ten of the city’s private housing stock on the rental market.
Labour says the plans would go out to public consultation should they win the 2015 election.
Councillor Wilson said: “With the largest private rented sector in England outside London, it is only right we look at measures to strengthen tenants’ rights and protect them from poor quality housing.”
Conservative housing spokesman Garry Peltzer Dunn said the jury was still out on universal licensing in the private rented sector.
He said: “Both Manchester and Milton Keynes carried out trials but concluded that it was costly and ineffective at tackling rogue landlords and could also be open to legal challenge.
“We all want to see the small minority of rogue landlords brought to book but there is a real danger that the cost and additional red tape will simply drive good landlords away.”