New controls on landlords and tenants could be introduced in some of Rotherham’s most deprived communities in an attempt to improve the quality of privately rented homes and reduce behaviour problems among tenants.
Rotherham Council’s ruling Cabinet will be asked on Monday to approve the start of consultation work which could result in all private landlords in three areas of the town needing to be licenced in future.
A similar arrangement already exists in some communities, where the council has reported positive results.
Under the current proposals, the licencing scheme would be extended to include Parkgate – which is among the 15 per cent of most deprived areas in the country – as well as Thurcroft and Brampton, which come in just behind in terms of deprivation.
They would follow on from the communities of Dinnington, Maltby, Ferham, Masbrough and Eastwood where a licencing scheme is already in operation and would form part of the council’s response to a growing problem with residents living in deprivation.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show increasing numbers of Rotherham people are living in areas designated among the most deprived in England, with numbers increasing by two thirds in little more than a decade, from 30,000 in 2007 to a current figure of 50,000 – accounting for virtually 20 per cent of the entire population.
Experience with the existing licencing scheme has demonstrated the need for greater control and the success that action from the council can have.
When licencing was introduced and rented homes inspected, it was found that 91 per cent needed work to make them safe for occupants – and more than a third of those had “significant” problems such as poor fire safety, damp, mould, excessive cold and damaged floors.
However, following council intervention most were improved, though officials are still involved in issuing further warnings and taking enforcement action over 130.
Six tenants have also been evicted over anti social behaviour, with 232 landlords being warned about the behaviour of their tenants.
A report to the Cabinet states: “Housing conditions are worse in Parkgate than most of the rest of England.
“Income levels, employment and health outcomes for households in the area are significantly lower than most of the rest of England.
“These indicators demonstrate that people have less housing option choices and may not be in a position to ensure their privately rented properties are maintained to an appropriate standard.”
The deprivation in those areas is also reflected in crime figures, with 423 crimes committed in Parkgate per 1,000 residents, dwarfing the Rotherham-wide figure of 85.
In Thurcroft and Brampton, the figure is 122 and in all the areas proposed for the new licencing scheme, anti social behaviour also remains a much greater issue than for the town as a whole.
Coun Dominic Beck told a scrutiny panel at Rotherham Council that the three years the existing licencing scheme had been in place had been a learning exercise for the council.
He said: “We have been true to our word, where landlords have not worked with the council – the vast majority have worked with is to improve standards in the houses they rent out – we have pursued them and prosecuted them.
If a scheme is introduced, it would involve landlords paying a licence fee to help pay for running the scheme. Ten weeks of consultation will take place if the Cabinet agrees, with an expectation the scheme would go live by April next year.
The Cabinet meets on Monday.