The North East Party has voiced its opposition to a new private landlord scheme in County Durham which could see the cost of licence fees passed on to the tenants of privately rented properties.

1,700 people had responded to the consultation in advance of the approval by the County Council, which proposes to charge landlords a fee for a licence to rent out homes they own and rent out to tenants.

Although the scheme must be approved by the secretary of state, a recent press release issued by Durham County Council suggests the plans will be implemented in April 2021, potentially increasing rent across the year.

Despite public concerns, the county’s online cabinet meeting concluded with one cabinet member saying that they thought the scheme would be welcomed by ‘good’ landlords, despite the risks to the public.

North East Party Chair and Durham County Councillor, Susan McDonnell objected and criticized the cabinet’s reasoning, stating: “There is no doubt in my mind that something needs to be done to tackle those landlords – or slumlords, as some would call them.

Landlords who do not maintain properties, adhere to health and safety regulations, treat their tenants poorly or properly vet their tenants in the first place, are the reason this scheme is being proposed and they should rightly be penalised for their actions (and, by all accounts, the county council know who they are).

“But to penalise landlords who take their responsibilities seriously, charge affordable rents, maintain their properties well and treat their tenants respectfully are effectively being ‘lumped in’ with the ‘bad’ landlords and being told they will have to pay as well, regardless of the fact that they have been ‘good’.”

“I’ve been contacted by a number of ‘good’ landlords and tenants who have serious concerns about the licencing scheme, especially as it may lead to rent rises in the selected areas”.

“Less than half of privately rented homes will be subjected to the licence fee, which is approximately 30,000 in the poorest and most deprived parts of the county.”

Susan went on to say “This will affect properties across a lot of Peterlee, Horden, Easington, Blackhall, Seaham and Shotton, where many people already struggle to make ends meet, so this will hit them really hard”.