TENANTS are starting to see improvements to their homes under a controversial new selective licensing scheme, according to council officials.
Rotherham Borough Council has introduced mandatory licensing of private sector lets in four areas of the borough - Eastwood, Masbrough, Maltby South East and Dinnington.
The plans caused outcry among landlords when they were unveiled, with complaints at the cost of licences and claims the scheme could stigmatise certain areas of town.
The council said the private rented sector is the only housing option available to some of the most vulnerable people in society, yet in some areas, properties in the private sector suffer from poor conditions and low-level anti-social behaviour.
Advisory Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Emma Wallis, said: “The selective licensing scheme is intended to drive up the quality of private rented housing in those areas where it applies.
“It is designed to improve the lives of tenants and their local communities.
“There are many good landlords in the private sector of course but our aim is to drive up standards and, where we find faults, we will take action.”
Since its introduction, more than 450 landlords have made applications to the scheme - with over 850 homes now subject to regular checks — almost two-thirds of the number of
privately rented houses in the designated areas.
In Eastwood, the proportion is even higher at 85 per cent, the council said.
The licences require landlords to abide by certain conditions relating to the management of their property, and licensed properties will be regularly inspected.
The council said it had identified problems in a number of houses which landlords have been required to address.
Issues ranged from a lack of adequate fire detection and efficient heating, to a lack of window restrictors on first floor bedroom windows to stop falls from heights.
Landlords of 90 properties were unable to demonstrate their properties were Gas Safe, the authority said.
Cllr Wallis said: “These are not minor issues - in some instances people's lives have been put at risk.
“It is our priority to ensure that vulnerable tenants are kept safe by targeting the landlords who are failing to carry out their proper duties.”
Those landlords without an up-to-date Gas Safe certificate have been given 14 days to produce one or risk a fine of up to £5,000.
Court action will also take place if landlords fail to act on required repairs.
Failing to license a house or breaching the conditions of licences can also result in a range of penalties being imposed at the Magistrates’ Court.
Already, the council is taking formal action against landlords who have failed to license their properties, with 21 landlords being told they are required to declare their interest.
Both owners and letting agents need to ensure the property is licensed before renting it out, the authority said.
More information on the Selective Licensing scheme can be found on Rotherham Council's website at www.rotherham.gov.uk/landlordlicensing.
If landlords need support in licensing their property they can call Rotherham Council on 01709 823118.