More action needs to be taken to tackle the impact of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), according to an opposition leader in Wrexham.
Poor living conditions and rubbish being dumped in the street are among the issues which have been raised in recent years amid an influx of applications to convert properties in the town into shared homes.
Cllr Alun Jenkins, who is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Wrexham Council, said some landlords were failing in their duty to look after tenants.
He said there were almost 100 in his ward of Offa, which covers part of the town centre, some of which were causing problems for the community.
Cllr Jenkins made his comments as leading councillors met to make minor tweaks to the authority’s policy on HMO licences and fees.
The report’s main aim was to reflect the outcome of recent landmark court rulings, which require licence fees to be paid in two parts.
However, he said he would have liked to see a greater overhaul of how licences are monitored.
Speaking at the Executive Board meeting at the Guildhall, Cllr Jenkins said: “For those of us that have town centre wards, HMOs are a big issue.
“I could take you round my ward, where I’ve got approaching 100 HMOs.
“The majority of those you wouldn’t know were HMOs because they’re well run, but it’s the same ones at the bottom of the pile which keep coming up and causing problems.
“There is a need to be certain that we’re doing all we can to make sure the conditions in which people are living in HMOs are satisfactory and that we’ve got enforcement ways of dealing with all of that.”
The changes outlined included revised charges for HMO licensing fees.
The report asked members to agree to proposed payments of £100 for the recovery of costs incurred by immigration inspections and £35 per hour to landlords for providing advice on a prospective HMO.
It also requested them to remove the current enforcement charge of about £415 for hazard awareness notices from 1 April 2019.
But Cllr Jenkins questioned whether the council had enough staff to enforce against landlords who do not act responsibly.
He said: “We know the constraints there are on the department. You’re under resourced and you’ve got fewer officers than are needed to do all the enforcement that’s needed.
“There are huge issues there about how we enforce and police all of this.
“You are revising the document and it would have been nice to have the opportunity to be able to comment and suggest some other tweaks.”
In response, the authority’s deputy leader said he sympathised with the difficulties mentioned by Cllr Jenkins.
Cllr Hugh Jones (Con), who is also lead member for people, told the meeting efforts were being made to improve the quality of HMOs in the area.
He said: “Can I just say that Cllr Jenkins and I have had long discussions over the problems of HMOs in Wrexham and I’m fully aware of what they are.
“I’m fully aware of the frustrations that all of us as members have faced over the years in trying to improve the standards, because it affects people’s quality of life and it affects the whole character of wards.
“It is a hugely important and significant problem for mainly town centre, but not entirely town centre wards and members.
“All I can say to you Alun is that had there been any significant change in policy other than bringing the document up-to-date, we would have gone through a different process.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter