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Crackdown coming on rogue landlords
12:00pm Wednesday 18th December 2013 in Echo News
ROGUE landlords operating below the radar of council rules could now be exposed and forced to sign up to a selfregulation scheme.
Southend Council housing officers will be given the power to check who is claiming housing benefits and where they are living in a bid to weed out landlords running multiple unregistered properties across the borough.
The change is being made under Government guidance to relax data protection laws, which had previously prevented information being shared between housing officers and benefit departments at local councils.
Martin Terry, independent group leader at the council, has been working towards changing the rules and praised the Echo for exposing the practices of 75- year-old landlord Alfred Katona, whowas last week ordered to pay out nearly £20,000 in fines and court costs, for problems at his property in Station Road, Westcliff.
Mr Terry said: “Even though the Government was saying we could and should do this to tackle rogue landlords, the council was still hiding behind data protection and refusing to do it. I must thank the Echo for helping me get this through because it is the expose of Alfred Katona that provided the pressure we needed to get officers to act and actually start doing it.”
There are only 67 properties in the borough licensed by the council under Homes of Multiple Occupation laws, but officers fear there could be as many as 300 more unregistered.
Only shared rented accommodation with five or more tenants, three or more storeys and communal areas need to be licensed by the council under the current rules.
The change will enable housing officers to cross-reference whether landlords are registered with the regulatory body the South Eastern Association of Landlords and, if not, inspect them and find out why.
Mr Terry, the council’s representative on the regulator, hopes if any other slum landlords are operating under the radar in the borough they will now be identified and forced to sign up to regulations, or face consequences.
David Colwill, housing enforcement manager, said it might still be tough to get rogue landlords to change their ways.
He said: “We can serve improvement notices, or take them to court, but if they pay the fine and still refuse to improve, there is little else we can do in the meantime.
“At the end of the day, if they own the property we cannot take it from them and if it is not a licensable property then they cannot be banned from renting it out.”
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