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Cllr Laura James wants register of all houses of multiple occupation
A LEADING borough councillor has called for the local authority to create a register of all houses of multiple occupation amid concerns that dodgy landlords are taking advantage of desperate residents.
Labour group leader and Norden councillor Laura James told councillors that many residents are suffering at the hands of illegal landlords.
She called for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to create a register of all houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) and said the council should offer unlicensed landlords an amnesty to sign the register and a new Charter of Standards that would ensure a home with multiple tenants is up to scratch.
Cllr James told the 60-strong council: “Without HMOs, many young professional and young people would not be able to afford to live in Basingstoke.
“We need a toolbox of policies that ensure landlords manage their properties to good standards within the law and respecting the surrounding community.”
She said that there are more than 120 unlicensed HMOs operating in Basingstoke and Deane.
“We know there are many, many more around the borough that the council are unaware of,” she said.
Cllr James added that she had uncovered evidence of a Basingstoke landlord with 14 properties in Norden and Popley and claimed none of his tenants has a tenancy agreement.
“He does not know who’s living there day to day,” she said. “He is holding all the rent deposits himself which is clearly illegal.”
She added: “Landlords are using deposits they hold in many cases to threaten people.”
However, Cllr Stephen Marks, Conservative chairman of the housing and environment committee, questioned Labour’s claims that there are unknown HMOs operating in the borough.
He said councillors were urged in 2011 to report all HMOs to officers, and to date none had been reported by members.
“If councillors know of them and do not report them, then there is a failing there,” he said.
And Conservative members warned that policies could become too strict for HMOs.
“We need to be very careful that while pressing for good standards and good monitoring, we don’t actually kill the goose which lays the golden egg for so many people,” said Cabinet member for housing and regeneration Cllr Rob Golding.
He added that 63 per cent of people on the borough’s 6,500-strong housing register are single people and rely on HMOs.
Cllr Golding said the council regularly inspects both licensed and unlicensed HMOs and is about to publish its “landlords good practice guide”.
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