Rogue landlords are facing a crackdown in County Durham after council bosses agreed to consider tough new regulations.
Under the proposals, known as Selective Licensing, private landlords across the county would be made to apply for a licence in order to rent out a home.
And if they failed to maintain acceptable standards in any of their properties they could be fined.
The plans were outlined to Durham County Council’s cabinet this morning, Coun Kevin Shaw, cabinet member for Strategic Housing and Assets.
He said: “We’ve seen significant improvements in the quality of the housing sector over the years, but seen, in the private sector, a drop in standards.
“The private sector is growing as more properties are lost from social housing under Right to Buy 40 per cent of properties bought under Right to Buy since the 1980s are now in the hands of private landlords.”
He added: “We need all landlords to provide decent, well-managed housing provision.”
Selective Licensing areas have previously been implemented in Dean Bank, in Ferryhill; Chilton West, in Chilton and Wembley, in Easington Colliery.
However, to bring in a county-wide policy the council needs government permission.
A similar scheme was introduced by Liverpool City Council about four years ago and has seen about 43,000 licences issued to landlords and lead to more than 100 successful prosecutions.
Councillors agreed to provide initial funding of £200,000 to begin work on scheme and prepare a business case to be presented to a future council meeting.
It is hoped that after funding initial set-up costs it could become self-sustaining through licence fees.
The plans have the backing of Durham’s Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Ron Hogg.
He said: “When Police are carrying out investigations, so much time can be lost trying to identify who owns the property where suspects are living.
“A County-wide licensing scheme for private landlords would make a significant difference to resolving crimes, and I believe it would also act as a deterrent because offenders would know there would be a greater likelihood of them being caught.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service