THERE are renewed calls for checks to be made on private landlords after "shocking" stories of poor housing conditions in the city.

The tenants union Acorn is putting pressure on Brighton and Hove City Council to commit to Selective Landlord Licensing - a scheme which gives the local authority the power to regulate the private rental market.

Housing activists say they are escalating efforts to collect evidence of poor housing after the city council said there was "insufficient evidence" to introduce the scheme in four initial target wards of Queen’s Park, St Peter’s and North Laine, Brunswick and Adelaide and Regency.

As part of their campaign, Acorn has been speaking to tenants about the conditions in their rented properties and launched a "Rate My Mould" competition to show the extent of the problem.

Branch Secretary Ellen Musgrove said: “Our members often report serious issues with landlords that don’t get resolved.

"We've been speaking to local renters over the past few weeks about their experiences of low quality housing and have had some shocking stories, including young children forced to endure serious damp and mould issues, plants growing through cracks in bedroom walls and numerous serious health and safety risks.

"If the council can’t find the evidence they need they must be doing something wrong.

"We have tried to work with the Green administration to improve conditions for renters but the many delays makes us question their commitment to standing up to bad landlords in this city."

Photos collected by Acorn show tenants' walls covered in black mould in damp properties.

The Argus: Photos show the extent of mould at a tenant's property in MoulsecoombPhotos show the extent of mould at a tenant's property in Moulsecoomb

Naomi Gann, member defence coordinator for the branch, said one property in the Queens Park ward had gone without heating all winter, as well as numerous other problems.

She said: "Their story is pretty awful. The four tenants have been spending money on electric heaters and have had no confirmation they will be compensated.

"But the heaters have not been enough to stop awful mould, and they've had to throw away clothes because wardrobes are so full of it.

"They also have leaks in three different places in the house and one room is unusable.

The Argus: Mould issues at a property in the Queens Park wardMould issues at a property in the Queens Park ward

"All our members have damp issues, so how the council can come back and say they have no evidence, I have no idea."

One renter in the city, 25, said: "I’m a care worker in Brighton and with such high rents my living options are limited.

"In my current home I’ve put up with broken and dangerous furnishings, a damp and cracking ceiling which still hasn’t been sorted, plus terrible mould which we had to take care of ourselves.

"It’s clear landlords need more accountability.

"Key workers and renters in our city deserve better."

Under Selective Landlord Licensing, landlords must meet certain criteria to prove they are safe and reliable and must declare whether they have a criminal record - as well as requirements to ensure their property is fit for purpose, and meets fire, electric and gas safety standards.

They would also have to declare any past breaches of housing law before permission is given to rent out properties.

Acorn says the scheme would tackle rogue landlords and help generate more sustainable, long term tenancies in the city.

The union's branches in Bristol and Newcastle have previously won their campaigns for selective landlord licensing in their cities.

The council has the authority to enforce the scheme on 20 per cent of its constituency initially, and would then need approval from the Secretary of State for further action.

Acorn has been negotiating with the local authority for over a year on the issue, and is also calling for an an Ethical Landlords Charter to be implemented.

The Argus: Acorn members at a previous campaign rally in BrightonAcorn members at a previous campaign rally in Brighton

The union said 83 per cent of more than 800 residents surveyed in 2017 said Selective Landlord Licensing would improve the general living standards of tenants in the city.

The city council carried out condition surveys during August and September last year in the four wards of Queen’s Park, St. Peter’s and North Laine, Brunswick and Adelaide and Regency, and reported that properties were "overall found to be in a good condition".

Acorn disputes these findings and is set to hold a public rally on Saturday morning outside Hove Town Hall as part of its for its Landlord Licensing Now! campaign.

The Argus: Acorn Brighton has launched a 'Rate My Mould' competition for tenants in the cityAcorn Brighton has launched a 'Rate My Mould' competition for tenants in the city

Councillor Martin Osborne, lead member for the private sector rented housing, said: “With regards to selective licensing, the big problem is not any lack of desire on our part to improve things – or a lack of belief that licensing can help improve private rented housing.

“The problem is that the thresholds the government has set for allowing such schemes are very high.

“The government withdrew approval for our previously proposed selective licensing scheme, citing a lack of specific evidence showing these thresholds have been met.

“While we do not yet have the evidence we need, we are continuing to collect evidence and work towards being able to apply for such a scheme. 

“We are committed to working with groups in the city, such as Acorn, who may have evidence that could support a selective licensing scheme that is not currently available to the council.”