It may have taken almost a year, but the Government finally signed off a ground-breaking Labour initiative to protect renters.

The Selective Licensing Scheme – which sets high quality and fair standards for private rental properties – was submitted by Durham County Council’s former Labour administration on December 23, 2020, was this week signed off by Government.

The scheme will help create long-term, sustainable neighbourhoods, ensuring that any privately rented property is in good condition, well-managed and adequately maintained. It also protects the interests of landlords, tenants, and communities and help approximately 30,000 homes, which account for 42% of the county’s private rented sector.

Council Kevin Shaw, County Durham Labour thematic lead for Strategic Housing, worked with the Housing Solutions team for three years on the submission. He said:

“This scheme provides us with yet another tool to use in our continued effort to drive up standards in our county’s housing stock. Good quality homes are vital – they help ensure the health and wellbeing of residents and improve social cohesion in our neighbourhoods, important for young and old alike.

“The problems associated with poor landlord or poor tenancy management are of huge concern in our communities and bringing confidence and stability back to areas that have been affected will once again make them places where people want to live as opposed to places where they simply have to live.”

Selective licensing is a key objective of the County Durham Housing Strategy, which was also delivered by the former Labour controlled authority. It will provide a regulatory framework for proactive monitoring of the private rented sector, allowing Durham County Council better support for good landlords while holding rogue landlords to account. Working closely alongside partners, such as police and fire and rescue, it will help identify where intervention is required at the earliest opportunity.

Cllr Shaw added:

“We worked on this for a very long time and carried out lengthy consultation, which shaped our submission and finally it has been approved after a year of sitting on the Government’s desk.

“I wish to pass on my sincerest thanks to our officers and the team who worked tirelessly and professionally in putting together such a robust case and shows clearly our former Labour-controlled County Council continues to deliver for our residents and communities.

“Shamefully we will now no doubt see this Tory Coalition in County Durham try to gain credit once again for another Labour initiative being introduced and which they had absolutely nothing to do with.”