THE Government has pledged to crack down on bad landlords, giving councils powers to stop them creating ghettos in the region’s towns and cities.

Housing and Planning Minister John Healey announced new powers requiring landlords to seek planning permission when they want to convert a family home into a shared rented property.

Councils will get more flexibility in licensing landlords – and a national landlords’ register will be established to raise standards.

Mr Healey said yesterday: “I am giving councils more powers to target the worst landlords and so stop the spread of high concentrations of shared homes where it causes problems for other residents or changes the character of neighbourhoods.

“Private landlords play a big part in meeting the housing needs of millions, so I want to raise the standards and stamp out the worst landlords that drag down the reputation of the rest.

“Councils know their communities and are best placed to help tenants with landlords who rent unsafe or substandard accommodation and take little responsibility for the problems they cause neighbours.”

The changes come amid concerns over an increase in Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in towns and cities, dubbed “studentification”.

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said the announcement was exactly what she had been campaigning for.

“We want communities which are balanced and provide a mix of private and social housing, rented and owner-occupied,” she said.

“Today’s announcement should help bring that about.”

Dr Blackman-Woods, who founded and chairs an allparty parliamentary group for Balanced and Sustainable Communities, added: “I am extremely pleased that councils will have more powers to end the high concentration of HMOs and provide more balance to our communities.

“We in the group have been campaigning for these changes for some time and it is great that our efforts have paid off.”

The move was condemned by the Residential Landlords’ Association as deplorable and draconian.

However, Alan Hayton, chairman of Whinney Hill community group, in Durham City, said: “I think it’s great.

This is what residents have been banging on about for many years.

“I think it will bring some of the more dubious landlords into line. It’s a positive step.”

The new powers will be in place by April.