By Local Democracy Reporter
THURROCK Council could introduce a new licensing scheme that would see landlords paying fees of up to £800 to let a single property.
The scheme which will be considered over the next 12 months would require landlords to pay hundreds of pounds to purchase a license for each property they rent out within a designated area.
The idea for the scheme is still in its early stages and details of fees or the designated are have not been confirmed. A council report said schemes introduced in other areas have charged landlords between £500 and £800 per property.
Landlords who don’t comply often face penalties such as banning orders preventing them from letting properties as well as fines.
The idea behind the scheme is to give the council more power to take on landlords who persistently break the law or leave tenants living in inadequate or unsafe housing.
The council says the benefits include a reduction in anti-social behaviour, safer neighbourhoods and a reduction in property related crime but it will not move forward until after a public consultation.
A similar scheme is also being considered by neighbouring Southend Council where they have faced criticism from the South East Alliance of Landlords which branded licensing schemes “grossly unfair” and said councils have the power to tackle landlord problems but they don’t use it.
The alliance has further warned that burdening landlords with additional costs is likely to lead to higher rents as fees are shifted to tenants.
Rents in Thurrock are already high and over the past five years the average annual cost has risen by £1,716, from £7,228 in 2014 to 8,944 in 2019.
Councillor Barry Johnson, who oversees housing at the council admitted there is a danger of fees being passed to tenants but said this was the best way for the council to take on landlords who “flout the law”.
He said: “It is a danger but the bigger danger is having landlords out there who are not registered. The only way to do that is by putting a fee on it so that we know who all the good ones are so we can spend less time looking for the bad ones who choose not to register.
He continued: “My personal view is I think you need to swing the hammer hard to crack the nut and if it works then maybe down the line we can start reducing the cost of the license in the years to come.”
If there is any legal means for the council to prevent the fees being handed push on the tenants, Mr Johnson added the council will explore it during the consultation process later in the year.
The plans will be discussed at a Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week.