Council asked to crackdown on 'unscrupulous' landlords failing vulnerable tenants in Boston

Language barriers, “unscrupulous” landlords and higher than average demand for rental property are causing significant issues in Boston’s lettings community, a new report has said.

Boston Borough Council offices. Stock image.
Boston Borough Council offices. Stock image.

However, Letting Agents in the town have said that the “rights” of some bad tenants were also pushing good landlords to sell up and have warned that a blanket licensing scheme across the town could result in more losses.

Boston Borough Council’s Environment and Performance Committee on Tuesday will be asked to approve a series of measures in a bid to crackdown on the issues including a selective licensing scheme requiring landlords in specific wards to register with the local authority.

This would enable the council to demand detailed documentation and carry out checks on properties while requiring the landlord to pay for the licensing fees.

The report said: “The condition of many properties in the private rented sector is putting the health of some of our most vulnerable residents at risk.

“In addition to presenting some of the poorest housing conditions, the properties within the private rented sector are presenting many challenges across a number of services both within the council and with our external partners.”

It notes there are “many properties” that provide good quality accommodation but said the evidence highlighted issues including waste management, fly-tipping, noise and anti-social behaviour.

“The present situation of higher than average demand for rented property within the borough is also making it easier for unscrupulous private sector landlords to rent out sub-standard property,” it said.

Recommendations also include lobbying Government to introduce a mandatory requirement for all privately rented accommodation to be registered with councils, to reinvest income from fines into proactive inspection work and to carry out further investigations specifically into the migrant community.

As part of its investigation, a council Task and Finish Group carried out a series of interviews with those affected, including the migrant communities.

It found there were “significant issues” including ongoing damp and mould, but that while residents were complaining to each other about the standards some did not know how to report issues officially, while others feared repercussions from landlords.

“There were also serious concerns in respect of the standard of shared houses. Some people were trying to live cleanly and quietly, alongside others who were disruptive and took drugs and drink and smoked in the house, making it feel very frightening for them,” said the report.

However, interviews with Letting Agents saw concerns around licensing costs being passed on to tenants and pushing “extremely high” rents higher.

Agents feared rogue landlords were being left unaccountable, especially with issues of sub-letting or damage to properties and back references for tenants who did not pay rent or caused criminal damage to properties.

“A number of landlords with small portfolios (good landlords) were selling up due to the ‘rights’ of bad tenants,” said the report.

Agents called on the authority to resist a blanket approach and target key areas instead.

They also raised a number of concerns including an increase in waste issues following the introduction of the purple bin, noting some bins were not collected for “small indiscretions”.

If the council’s attempts to improve housing standards across the borough are successful, similar measures may also be brought in across its partners in East Lindsey and South Holland District Councils.