Rising anti-social behaviour and poor housing conditions have been linked to rogue landlords operating in County Durham communities. 

A scheme to weed out private landlords breaking the law and protect residents living in squalid conditions was scrutinised by councillors in the region. 

Durham County Council’s selective licensing scheme gives the authority powers to regulate landlords and the management of private rented properties in areas that suffer from low housing demand or high levels of anti-social behaviour and deprivation. 

The scheme currently encompasses 103 designated areas and requires all private landlords to obtain a licence to rent properties. It was introduced by the local authority in 2022 to maintain and improve standards across the county’s housing stock and also the wider housing environment. 

New figures revealed by the local authority have been met with concern from councillors, however. Enforcement work has led to one licence being revoked after the landlord was found not to be “fit and proper”, while two further prosecutions have concluded. More than 80 improvement notices have also been issued. 

Cllr Liz Brown told council officers how “horrified” she was that 15 per cent of all compliance inspections to date were found to be unsatisfactory. The Liberal Democrat member told a meeting: “It’s quite a frightening number. It’s terrifying that people are being put into these properties and we don’t know what state they’re in.”

More than 11,000 licences have been issued since its introduction, covering 42 per cent of the private rented stock (28,500 properties) in County Durham. 

In operation from Chester-le-Street and Consett to Seaham and Shotton, landlords are 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 scheme is also in operation throughout Ferryhill, and cllr Peter Atkinson spoke of the impact it has had on housing in the area. “We have suffered a lot of anti-social behaviour and the blame goes to the private landlords,” he said. 

“The people being brought into the areas is a contentious issue. There’s some good private landlords and tenants but there’s this band of not so good landlords and they bring people into the area. We have no idea of their history and all of a sudden we have a spate of anti-social behaviour.”

The Northern Echo: Pictures illustrate the poor condition of properties belonging to landlord Sukhraj Singh Barham, in charge of homes in HordenPictures illustrate the poor condition of properties belonging to landlord Sukhraj Singh Barham, in charge of homes in Horden (Image: Durham County Council)

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The rise in community disorder was also highlighted by Cllr Alison Batey, of Pelton ward, another area included in the scheme.

She said: “While I'm concerned about tenants in these properties I'm also very mindful of the impact on the residents in the wider communities.”

Durham County Council said it has appointed an anti-social behaviour co-ordinator to liaise with and educate tenants and landlords. 

A report added: “The teams continue to work proactively in the selective licensing areas to ensure all landlords obtain a license and comply with licence conditions, by making full use of both informal measures as well as robustly pursuing enforcement action.”