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Southampton City Council to discuss renewal of HMO scheme

CALLS are being made for a crackdown on Southampton landlords in a bid to stamp out anti-social behaviour across the city.

Housing bosses say landlords need to take a tougher stance against tenants who make life a misery for neighbours.

The calls come as residents across the city are given their say on how landlords who run houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) are licensed.

The council’s current scheme, which covers Bevois, BargatePortswood and Swaythling, is set to expire in July.

Council housing bosses hope to renew the current policy, which they say has been a “success”.

But they are required to consult with residents first.

Ahead of the launch of the consultation, residents and councillors are calling for the council to toughen up the scheme, in order to tackle absent landlords and unruly tenants.

Sandra Lockhead, chair of the Central Portswood Residents’ Association, said the Portswood area has been “completely changed” by the influx of HMOs.

She said: “We’ve had major problems with anti-social behaviour, noise, damage to cars and rubbish piled up in the streets.

“It’s not acceptable behaviour.”

Mrs Lockhead blamed “marauding students” and “absent landlords” for the bulk of the problems.

She said: “Normally the agencies are quite good, but some of the landlords just don’t care.”

Mrs Lockhead’s concerns have been echoed by Portswood ward member, councillor Paul O’Neill.

He said: “I’ve had reports of late night parties, fireworks being set off in the early hours of the morning.

“They leave the bins out and in some areas you can’t even walk on the pavement.”

He added: “I think the scheme is working but within a certain remit.

“I think landlords need to be accountable to the residents in neighbouring properties.

“It should be similar to pub landlords, who have a responsibility to local residents.

“If they don’t get their customers to behave they face losing their licence.”

The council’s current additional licensing scheme was launched in 2013.

All HMO properties which have three or more occupiers from two or more households must be licensed and must comply with any set conditions.

This excludes those covered by the government’s Mandatory Licensing scheme.

The council says it has handed out 3500 HMO licences since the scheme launched five years ago – half of those with set conditions.

The authority says almost 40 per cent of properties do not comply.

In a report, set to be discussed by councillors tonight, housing chiefs says their is “still work to do to raise standards”.

But it states that since the introduction of the scheme, noise nuisance and waste complaints have fallen by more than 50 per cent.

Complaints by tenants about housing conditions have also fallen by 75 per cent.

Council leader, Simon Letts, said he was pleased to see the scheme supported by a Conservative councillor.

Meanwhile, the Southern Landlords Association, which represents members across the south east, has promised to work with the council during the consultation.

However, one of its directors, Peter Littlewood, rejected calls for tougher regulations.

He said: “In general, landlords as a whole do work with tenants to control anti-social behaviour.

“But if someone continues to do it, all you can do is evict.

“It is the council and police that have the powers to deal with it.”

The city council’s cabinet are set to make a final decision on the launch of the consultation at a meeting tonight.

The cabinet will then make review the result of the consultation at a meeting in June, in the hope of implementing a new scheme before the current one expires in July.

Source: Daily Echo