A COMPULSORY licensing scheme for landlords is set to be introduced in Oxford.

Today Oxford City Council announced it would adopt new powers designed to clamp down on bad landlords and improve the quality of private rented accommodation following a speech from housing and planning minister John Healey at the Town Hall.

Mr Healey said he would amend existing legislation so local authorities could introduce compulsory licensing schemes from April.

He said: “I am giving councils more powers to crack down on the worst landlords and stop the spread of high concentrations of shared homes, where it causes problems for other residents or changes the character of a neighbourhood.”

Oxford has one of the highest numbers of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the country – about 5,000 – and for years residents in East Oxford have complained that too many family homes had been converted into flats.

Mr Healey said: “Oxford City Council has been leading the campaign for these changes and I would expect the council to use them very actively.”

At present, the council runs a voluntary accreditation scheme for landlords.

Council leader Bob Price said: “We will need to look at the finer details, but from April we will aim to set up a compulsory licensing scheme for all private landlords.

“There will be an enforcement regime which will encourage landlords to improve standards, and there will be the threat of not insignificant fines if they do not comply with the standards required by the licence.”

Mr Price said the licensing scheme would look at external decoration, garden management and the management of waste.

He insisted HMOs would have to contribute to the quality of life in the city.

Existing and new landlords would have to apply for a licence under the scheme, he added.

Rob Dickinson, a spokesman for the department of Communities and Local Government, said: “It will be up to the council how it enforces any new compulsory licensing scheme, but if landlords don’t comply, they could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £20,000.”

Mr Healey also revealed planning permission requirements for HMOs will be tightened and said he wanted to create a national landlord register, but this would require new legislation which would have to go through Parliament.

Sietske Boeles, secretary of the Divinity Road Residents Association in East Oxford, which is part of the national lobby against the growing number of HMOs, said: “I think these proposals can make a difference. The council needs to seize this opportunity.”

Jan Bartlett, of Cowley Road-based Premier Letting, agreed, adding: “For 20 years I have been campaigning for something like this.”

But Baldev Kamal, who rents homes out in Headington and Marston, said: “I don’t think it should be necessary for all landlords to take part in a licensing scheme.”