Freedom of Information request to EDDC anyone? To include councillors spouses and children, of course!
…“In Torbay, 39% of councillors own multiple properties, including one who has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for tenants in the last two years.
Three Conservative councillors in the south coast authority, including the mayor, own a combined 68 residential properties. In Bournemouth, 15 of the 37 councillors hold multiple property interests; in Labour-controlled Leeds, 26 of the 99 councillors own more than one property in the city.
Councils have the power to regulate private landlords with licensing schemes that enforce minimum levels of safety and habitability, particularly in the poorest areas with large numbers of rental homes. None of these three authorities, which have the largest proportions of landlord councillors, have introduced such schemes.
“It is worrying that towns and cities with high numbers of private renters are governed by a disproportionately high number of landlords, especially if it makes councils less inclined to regulate the local rental market properly,” said Dan Wilson Craw, director of the pressure group Generation Rent.
He said landlord licensing could make a significant difference. For example, the London borough of Newham’s licensing scheme accounts for 70% of all housing prosecutions in the capital.
Landlord councillors insist there is no conflict of interest and say a lack of resources and a belief that the schemes are not the most effective form of regulation influence the decisions. Others have said licensing is under consideration. …
… Torbay council has admitted that the age and quality of the housing stock “means that it is poorly insulated, generally inefficient, which leads to poor living conditions and fuel poverty”. It has also said it may consider licensing landlords in certain areas to increase control over the quality of private sector homes, but has yet to do so.
Six of its councillors rent out 19 properties in two of the most deprived wards. James O’Dwyer, who sits on several council committees, is also a property manager and landlord, and eight of the 44 houses and flats in which he and his family have an interest are located in two wards – Tormohun and Roundham with Hyde – that are ranked in the bottom 10% of living environments in England, according to the government’s indices of deprivation.
Since 2015, O’Dwyer has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for his tenants, according to figures released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.
O’Dwyer said budget cuts rather than the influence of councillor landlords was more likely to be the reason for the failure to introduce licensing schemes in his area.
“This lack of resources and the burden of bureaucracy is far more likely to be the cause of any stagnation of a licensing scheme than the Machiavellian cabal of landlords targeting Torbay,” he said.
O’Dwyer said he would support the right kind of scheme in Torbay and stressed that any conflicts of interest were dealt with under council rules.
His fellow councillor Ray Hill rents out five homes in Tormohun as part of a portfolio of 19 residential properties that he owns or leases. Hill said he and his wife were “responsible and attentive landlords”.
“All of the 19 flats owned by my wife and myself in Torquay and elsewhere are of a high standard, some furnished and some unfurnished,” he said.
A Torbay council spoke4sperson said the authority had invested in an enforcement team rather than licensing, which had resulted in prosecutions changing the behaviour of bad landlords.
“This has had an impact bay-wide rather than in a specific identified area,” they said.”