A selective licencing scheme introduced in parts of Southend-on-Sea to help improve the private housing rental market, has seen more than 3,000 licences issued in the first year.
Landlords of private rental homes in nine areas within Milton, Kursaal, Victoria and Chalkwell wards, had to apply for a five-year licence by 31 March 2022.
The scheme was agreed by full council in March 2021 for these areas because of anti-social behaviour, poor property conditions, and high levels of deprivation and crime.
A total of 3,223 licences are now live, although initially 1,835 failed the compliance application for not having the correct certificates, documentation, and provided incorrect information, which has led to 77 withdrawn or revoked licences.
More than 130 compliance visits have also taken place identifying several hazards, including damp, mould, and excess cold. The council are working with landlords to remove these hazards and improve the quality of life for tenants.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, cabinet member for economic recovery, regeneration and housing, said: “The licence scheme was introduced to give residents the reassurance that their homes are safe, encourage landlords to raise property standards and develop a set of minimum housing standards. The current evidence confirms the need for this scheme despite earlier reservations of landlords and agencies in Southend-on-Sea.
“We want people who live in Southend-on-Sea, to live in safe, comfortable homes, whether they are owned, rented or social housing. We’re doing all we can to achieve a level of housing standard across the board that gives everyone a similar standard of living, regardless of where in the City or how many bedrooms the property has.”
The team have now moved into the compliance phase and are checking unlicenced properties to consider options for failure to licence, which may include the issuing of fines. They have issued improvement notices for category 1 and 2 hazards and civil penalty notices for non-compliant properties which will remove hazards and penalise those who provide substandard housing.
So far 31 noncompliance hazards have been identified. The most frequently found issues include damp and mould issues, excess cold, falls on stairs and a breach of licence conditions.
Where licences are revoked or refused, landlords are invited to reapply with the full documentation, but it does not mean that the tenant must leave the property. If a landlord has not licenced the property, tenants can apply for rent repayment orders.
Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for public protection, said: “Now we are in the process of enforcing the selective licence, we can deliver on the promises we made to improve the quality of the rental properties in the areas where the licence applies.
“This is further supported by the recent introduction of a supplementary private rented sector housing enforcement policy, to ensure health and safety measures relating to electrics and carbon monoxide are met.
“Overall, this means our residents who rent privately, are getting better quality, safe housing and this has a ripple effect, as they take more pride in their home, and better care of their surroundings.”
For more information for landlords and tenants about the selective licencing scheme, visit our web page.
If you are a private tenant and wish to get advice on your situation, visit our advice page.