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Union members demand stronger protection for tenants in Sheffield

Members of ACORN have left stories of rogue landlords outside the Town Hall as part of a campaign for city-wide regulation.

Whats App Image 2021 02 23 at 11 45 19 AM

ACORN member Olive outside the Town Hall.

A community union has built a 'house' outside the Town Hall made from bricks containing stories of bad landlords in Sheffield.

ACORN's action on Saturday was part of their campaign for city-wide landlord licensing, which would require landlords to pass a series of basic checks before renting out homes.

Campaigners point out that selling alcohol in a bar or driving a taxi requires a mandatory license in the UK, but there is no obligation for someone renting out homes to be vetted.

“We’re making a ‘house of bad landlords’ out of the stories to show that there is a lot of evidence that we need landlord licensing in the city," said ACORN member Emily.

"People are sick of having complaints with their landlords”.

After a campaign by the union, a targeted landlord licensing scheme was introduced by Sheffield City Council in 2018 in the area around London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road.

A series of inspections at the time found that there were "serious issues of disrepair, dangerous living conditions and poor management" at rented properties in the area.

Landlords within the zone now have to demonstrate that they are "fit and proper" persons and that their properties meet basic health and safety standards.

A similar scheme in Page Hall ran from 2014 to 2019 to address dangerous conditions for renters in the area.

ACORN now want to see licensing expanded to cover the entire city, arguing that all rented properties should be subject to basic checks and that landlords should be vetted for criminal convictions.

Liverpool City Council introduced a city-wide scheme in 2015 that covered 80% of rented properties, after uncovering serious fire and electrical safety hazards.

But renewal of the project for a further five years was blocked by the government last year, following a sustained lobbying campaign by groups representing the city's landlords.

Liverpool Council are now consulting on a new scheme that would cover four-fifths of properties in the previous scheme, after finding that 70% of properties inspected between 2015 and 2020 were in breach of license conditions.

In Sheffield, ACORN want Cllr Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, to back a city-wide scheme. This would require approval from central government.

“There’s a pandemic of bad landlords in this city," said Jamie, Communications Officer at ACORN Sheffield.

"We have a track record of successfully taking on rogue landlords, but what is needed is city-wide actions to stop them operating in our city for good."

Cllr Wood declined to say whether he supported city-wide licensing in principle when asked by Now Then, but said this year’s budget included funding to expand the council’s private rented sector enforcement and inspection teams.

He added that the Council’s priority was to “make sure that every tenant has a safe and secure place to call home”, and that Selective Licensing was used to address poor property conditions.

“Selective Licensing is always done on a geographical basis and not on property type or individual landlords,” he said.

“Where we know landlords show poor practices we act by taking as many cases as possible to court. No scheme can be proposed until evidence is collected to clearly show that Selective Licensing would be the only way to drive up standards.”

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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