Meeting over controversial landlord proposals in Sheffield 'nearly ends in blows'
A row over controversial new regulations for landlords in Sheffield nearly ended in blows, it is claimed, as a meeting descended into chaos.
Sheffield Council is considering introducing 'selective licensing' for private landlords in the London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road areas to the south of the city centre.
The measure - which is already in place in Page Hall - would require landlords to apply for a licence, showing they are 'fit and proper' people and their properties are up to scratch.
Supporters claim this would improve standards for tenants in a part of the city where inspections have revealed dozens of homes to be so poorly maintained occupants' safety was compromised.
But opponents claim it is unnecessary and say the proposed licence fee of around £1,000 could drive up rents and drive down house prices in the area.
Acorn, a union which campaigns for tenants' right and supports selective licensing, claimed there was a 'mob' of around 70 landlords, many of whom were abusive and one of whom even challenged a speaker to a fight.
Shahid Ali, who has concerns about the council's proposals, said members of Acorn were allowed to interrupt and speak over landlords.
Mr Ali, whose brother and father both let properties in the area, believes the proposed cost of a five-year licence - which it is envisaged would start at £750 - is too high and may lead to rents rising by up to £50 a month.
"Landlords aren't against being scrutinised or even selective licensing, They just feel the cost is too high," he said.
"I know landlords who have saved all their lives to buy properties as their pension, and who spend a lot of money maintaining those properties, but who would struggle to afford this and may have no option other than to pass the cost on to their tenants."
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Jonny Butcher, Acorn's regional organiser for Sheffield, described warnings of rising rents as 'pure fantasy', and said even if landlords did pass on the cost it would work out at less than £3 a week.
"Even if tenants have to pay that we would still support the scheme, because the conditions tenants face in this city and especially down those roads are terrible. It's like the Wild West," he said.
"Landlords are trying to make it about cost, but it's not about cost, it's about people's lives. Landlords don't want this regulation because they don't want to have to pass the fit and proper person test."
Sheffield Council says the licensing scheme in Page Hall, which was introduced in 2014, forced landlords to spend more than £1 million on repairs.
In the new area where the measures are proposed - a four-mile stretch covering around 1,000 privately-rented homes - it says three-quarters of properties inspected were found to have 'high-risk hazards', including the danger of harm from fire, falls or mould.
Mr Ali, however, claims this figure is misleading as the properties in question were ones about which the council had concerns to begin with.
The council is proposing a sliding scale of licensing fees, from £750 for landlords applying earliest to £1,500 for those who fail to apply before the council is forced to take action. Any money raised must be spent administering the scheme.
The 13-week consultation ends today, Friday, February 23.