A NEW scheme which aims to maintain a high standard of rented properties in County Durham has opened.

Durham County Council’s selective licensing scheme requires all private landlords to obtain a licence to rent properties in designated areas of the county.

A total of at least 29,000 properties, or 42 per cent of the private rented sector in the county, is covered by the scheme, which was approved by the government in November 2021 following an application by the council.

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Selective licensing is a key part of the County Durham Housing Strategy 2019 to 2024, which aims to maintain and improve standards across the county’s housing stock and also the wider housing environment.

The scheme helps to create long-term, sustainable neighbourhoods by ensuring that any privately rented properties are well managed and in good condition. It will also protect both residents and tenants alike by tackling landlords who do not comply.

Landlords must apply for a licence and ensure their management practices and properties meet standards set out by the scheme. It promotes good management and maintenance by landlords and will see rental properties regularly inspected by the council.

Landlords will be required to make repairs and improvements that have been identified as part of inspections and failure to comply will result in enforcement action being taken.

The licence fee per property rented is a maximum of £500 and covers a five-year period. However, a number of discounts are available if landlords meet certain criteria, and this can reduce the fee to £350 per licence.

The applications process opened in February this year and landlords are urged to apply for a licence as soon as possible. A £60 discount per property licence is available until the end of July. This is to ensure as many landlords apply for the licence as possible before compliance checks begin and possible enforcement action is required.

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Cllr James Rowlandson, the council’s Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets, said: “We’re pleased to have launched this scheme in County Durham, encouraging landlords to manage their properties and tenancies responsibly.

“It is a key objective of the County Durham Housing Strategy and will raise the standards of private rented properties across our area. It will also improve the health and wellbeing of tenants as well as reduce anti-social behaviour in our communities.

“The scheme is also about enabling us to better support landlords so that they can give the best service possible to their tenants and holding those who fail to meet the required standard to account.”

More information on the scheme, including details of further discounts, can be viewed at www.durham.gov.uk/selectivelicensing Telephone enquiries can now be made by calling the Housing Solutions telephone number 03000 268000 and pressing option 2.

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