HMO landlords in South Tyneside should face same tough checks as taxi drivers, committee hears

Landlords who run controversial houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) could face the same tough checks as taxi drivers if councillors get their way.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 4:45 pm
Councillors have been investigating HMOs in South Tyneside

Town hall chiefs have delayed signing off a probe into the possible links between HMOs and crime, with one councillor describing the report as not strong enough.

South Tyneside Council launched a special commission to investigate the issue earlier this year to look at rising numbers living in shared flats, houses and hostels as well as the support on offer for vulnerable people in the private rented sector.

But councillors have decided to take another look at the final report after agreeing its findings and suggestions needed to be beefed up to reflect the seriousness of the situation.

“It didn’t seem very strong,” said former mayor Coun Ernest Gibson, who represents South Shields’s Whiteleas ward.

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“The recommendation we wanted to go towards was licenced HMO properties and landlords and for them to have DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks to make sure they’re appropriate people.

“Taxi drivers have these things, and first aid certificates, and I think if you’re dealing with vulnerable people then these are the things you need.”

Coun Gibson was speaking at a meeting of STC’s Place Select Committee, which he also chairs.

The committee, which is due to meet again to consider the report in more detail next week, also raised the difficulty in arranging fact-finding visits to HMOs due to legal considerations.

Themes raised during commission sessions included allegations of antisocial behaviour, quality of care for tenants and property management, with council housing bosses admitting complaints about HMOs had risen, but they also claimed this could be linked to an improved complaints system.

Laws which came into force last year require local authorities to issues licences to all HMOs which last up to five years.

Coun Anne Hetherington said: “We don’t want to demonise people who find themselves living in a HMO.

“I think where we’re coming from is we want to give people a level of protection, we want to make it safe, we want people to feel safe in their homes.

“I think we have a duty of care as a local authority to ensure that wherever people live is safe accommodation, but we have some really responsible [landlords] and then we have others who aren’t.