At the Cheshire East Council meeting on 23rd February this year, Labour Councilors proposed “That during 2017/18 the council consult on a compulsory residential landlord licensing scheme for all privately let residential accommodation situated within Cheshire East, including all houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The administration of the scheme will be cost neutral, with its set-up and running costs to be covered by income from licence and inspection fees within the forthcoming three year budget cycle.”
The Council Leader, Councillor Rachel Bailey and the portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Ainsley Arnold gave an undertaking to investigate and pursue the issue.
Yet, over six months later nothing has happened, with the Council procrastinating, saying that it is waiting for the Government to issue new regulations on the registration and management of HMOs.
Meanwhile new HMO’s are springing-up on a weekly basis in the inner areas of the Borough’s major towns , and especially in Crewe, where residents are complaining that the concentration of HMO’s has now reached saturation point.
Yet some councils are not waiting, with many up and down the country currently working on introducing new HMO registration schemes, or strengthening and extending their existing HMO registration schemes, Changes include imposing restrictions on new HMO’s in areas already having high concentrations, and pursuing prosecutions against rogue landlords and agents far more vigorously.
Brian Roberts, Labour Councillor for Crewe West said; ‘Over the last few years I have witnessed most of my neighbours move away. Where once over 90% of my neighbourhood was made-up of owner occupiers or long term tenants, it has now fallen to around 20%, with the majority of houses and flats let on short term insecure tenancies.
As a result, neighbourhood cohesion is non-existent, fuelled by the ongoing ‘churn’ of residents that stay for only six months, or less. Also, the housing stock is becoming increasingly dilapidated as is the public realm because of continued lack of any long-term investment by Cheshire East Council on infrastructure.
The minority of rogue landlords are being let off the hook and private renters, especially in HMO’s, face a “postcode lottery” when it comes to having their rights upheld, with Cheshire East currently having the lightest of light touch registration schemes.
Steve Hogben, Crewe South Labour Councillor, added, “In my ward and many others in Crewe the consequence of uncontrolled HMO development is that many of our communities and neighbourhoods are at saturation point with HMOs and we risk them being ‘hollowed out’ as families give up and move away.
We desperately need a policy that limits the density of HMOs in any given area, to prevent the ‘doughnut effect’ that occurs in some inner cities. I have raised the need for such a policy a number of times at planning committees and so far the official response has been to ignore it. I am not prepared to tolerate that any longer.
We need action by Cheshire East Council NOW, before it is too late!”
Nick Mannion, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield West & Ivy, said, “For many of our most vulnerable residents, renting from a private landlord is currently the only option available to them. Therefore, we have a duty to ensure that such accommodation is safe and well-managed. Good landlords have nothing to fear from a robust registration scheme, but it will help the Council quickly identify and clamp-down on the minority of incompetent and rogue landlords and agents.”