ROGUE landlords who fail to provide decent homes for their tenants are to be the targets of a new council licensing scheme.
The drive to provide better and more secure accommodation for private tenants was a key part of the Labour council's manifesto for May's elections.
And Cabinet member for homes and regeneration Alison Butler, said this week the rapid move towards introducing the licensing regime was part of the council's commitment to meet that pledge.
The proposals are expected to get approval at Monday's Cabinet meeting and will then go out to consultation with landlords, tenants and residents.
But they have come under fire from Councillor Dudley Mead, the shadow Cabinet member for homes and regeneration, who claimed it would not work.
The scheme will require all landlords to be registered with the council, obtaining a licence which is likely to cost about £1,000 for a five-year period.
To gain a licence landlords will have to demonstrate they have met a series of health and safety standards and there will also be stringent checks to find out whether they have any criminal convictions. Landlords renting out properties without a licence could face fines of up to £20,000, while those failing to comply with licence conditions can be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000.
Cllr Butler said private sector tenants in Croydon now exceeded the number of social tenants and it was vital they were protected. The council estimates there are about 30,000 privately rented properties in the borough.
In the last four years the number of complaints received by the council about private rented housing standards have more than doubled from 630 in 2010/11 to 1,371 in 2013/14.
Cllr Butler said: "There is big reluctance by some tenants to report these problems to the council because they are worried about losing their homes."
The council hopes the scheme will make it easier for concerns to be raised and dealt with.
Cllr Butler said: "We will be sending out the message to landlords that if you want to rent out a property in Croydon it has to be of a decent standard and you have to take responsibility for your tenants."
Cllr Butler also maintained there were advantages for landlords because if standards were driven up Croydon would become recognised as a place where private tenants were looked after, making renting here more attractive.
She said: "There may be reluctance from some landlords to join the scheme but during the consultation if constructive suggestions are offered, we will look at them."
Cllr Mead said: "What Labour are doing is trying to make a business out of this.
"All the good, honest and straightforward landlords in the town will pay up but those who are under the radar and running things like beds in sheds are not going to be caught. It won't solve problems."