Wednesday (13) sees a chance for Wisbech landlords, their tenants and the wider community have their say on how to improve standards in the private rented sector in the town.
One of the things being considered is selective licensing covering up to seven wards in the town - a move that was previously shelved after the governing Conservative group decided they did not want to proceed with the scheme.
However, it appears to be back on Fenland District Council’s radar and at least two Wisbech councillors are still vehemently against the scheme - fearing it will drive problem landlords outside of the areas covered and cause rents to rise.
Both Wisbech mayor Councillor Steve Tierney and Wisbech Town Council leader Councillor Sam Hoy are worried about the possible impact of selective licensing and fear landlords may pass on the £550 cost of a property licence to tenants.
They are also concerned the money raised will not be used to properly administer the scheme or worse the scheme could cost more to run than it brings in.
Coun Tierney said: “Selective licensing was sidelined a while back, but Fenland seem to have used the consultation on how to tackle poor housing conditions and management as a means to bring it back. But I personally think it is not the right thing to do. It will only force landlords to move to areas not covered by licensing, and those that have properties in the area will put the rents up to cover the cost of registering their property.”
Coun Hoy said: “Wisbech already has really high rents compared to other places. It is cheaper to rent a two bedroom house in Nottingham than it is in Wisbech. Selective licensing is not going to help that situation and it could make it worse.”
However, Councillor Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder for health and wellbeing who is chairing the task force looking at the issues, believes selective licensing could help combat problems such as criminal activity, anti-social behaviour, overcrowded homes, poor property conditions and examples of poor management.
He said: “These issues have a negative impact on tenants, their neighbours and the whole community. The introduction of a selective licensing scheme may go some way to combat these issues through a requirement for landlords to meet a set of basic standards for managing and maintaining private rented homes in Wisbech.
“A decision to implement a scheme has been deferred to enable us to explore the issues in greater depth. The views of landlords and agents are essential for us to consider and understand when we are making recommendations on the way forward.”
If a selective licensing scheme was introduced it would most likely cover seven wards – Clarkson, Kirkgate, Medworth, Octavia Hill, Peckover, Staithe and Waterlees Village. It would last for five years and affect an estimated 2,400 properties. Landlords would have to apply for a licence for each of their properties.
Two informal drop-in sessions have been organised to gather views at The Oasis Centre in St Michael’s Avenue, Wisbech, today (Wednesday). Agents are invited to come and have their say between 4pm and 5.30pm, and landlords between 6pm and 7.30pm.
Any landlords and agents unable to make the drop-in sessions are urged to email their views to: firstname.lastname@example.org.