It’s hard to believe the leafy suburbs of one of Britain’s most prestigious seats of learning are a black spot for rogue landlords.
With a population of 150,000 and home to the dreamy spires of a world-class university, the housing enforcement team of Oxford City Council has prosecuted close to 200 landlords, with courts handing down fines and costs of more than £320,000.
This legal action has all taken place since January 2011, when Oxford was the first council to introduce blanket licensing of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
No doubt the landlords who have faced the ire of the council deserved their punishment before the courts.
However, the question then becomes why is Oxford streets ahead of the hundreds of other local authorities in the country for cracking down on rogue landlords?
A few other councils in London, Leeds and Manchester also regularly take landlords to court over HMO transgressions, but surely poor housing standards are not confined to a handful of towns and cities?
Oxford’s board member for housing Councillor Mike Rowley said: “Our enforcement is proving effective and as it becomes more familiar, more people are aware of their rights and complain about dodgy landlords.
“The scheme has been going on for five years now and has been given a great deal of publicity. There is no excuse for not licensing a property and rogue landlords have nowhere to hide.”
The latest landlords to face the courts in Oxford in three separate cases were Abdul Chaudhry, 66, who admitted running an HMO without a licence and failing to observe fire safety. He was ordered to pay £5,436 in fines and costs.
Shoukat Khan, 44, admitted letting an HMO that broke nine safety rules. He was fined 32,000 with £1,375 costs.
Deborah Humes, 57, also admitted running an unlicensed HMO and breaking safety rules for tenants. She was must pay £6,2328 in fines and costs.
It’s hard to believe Oxford is an isolated case with a more than fair share of bad landlords, but it would seem a more even-handed approach to enforcing housing rules to protect good landlords and tenants is needed.