Investigation launched into houses of multiple occupation in South Tyneside

Coun Doreen Purvis.
Coun Doreen Purvis.

An investigation into houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in South Tyneside will be launched early next year as part of a drive to improve tenant safety.

New laws, which came into force on October 1 mean all HMOs now need to be licenced by the local authority.

Coun Audrey McMillan

Coun Audrey McMillan

Housing bosses in South Tyneside have identified 180 across the borough and councillors are to launch a commission into private and council licensed HMOs.

Concerns include safeguarding and limited support for vulnerable residents, housing standards in the private rented sector and rising crime levels.

The council’s Place Select Committee was told the commission will run over three sessions between January and April next year.

Councillors will question witnesses from the local authority’s housing and commissioning teams and police and health bosses.

Committee chairman, Coun Audrey McMillan, said the commission aimed to provide a clearer picture of HMOs in the borough.

This includes a map of both private and council HMOs and more information on the process of placing and supporting vulnerable tenants.

She said: “Several members feel these people are not getting the services they should and they’re vulnerable people.

“Landlords surely have some responsibility to their tenants and it seems to us that there is not a lot of care given.”

She added: “I think we have to be careful not to stigmatise. We want the right results for tenants.

“I think it’s something we need to know in order to help and to try and work with these landlords.”

Coun Doreen Purvis added: “I’m concerned because I know individuals who have been stuck in the places for years and years. You see them wandering the streets and wonder what kind of support and encouragement is being given toward an independent life.”

The first scrutiny session is expected to start on January 22 with further sessions taking place in February or March and April.

The scope will examine the council’s powers to influence private landlords over poor housing standards and lack of support for vulnerable residents.

Currently, a HMO licence lasts for five years with the council carrying out inspections on living standards and fire safety.

The meeting heard that the council would write to properties which could need a new HMO licence under the new regulations.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service