In a letter to the housing minister earlier this year, mayor Stuart Drummond called for urgent legislation to control the activities of some landlords. He also invited the minister to Hartlepool to see the problems first hand for himself.
'They are bulk buying cheap properties, often letting them to tenants whose anti-social behaviour can cause even further distress and deterioration. They are subject to few controls and seem to care little for the impact they are having.
'The proposed licensing of private landlords could be of major assistance provided it has teeth. I would like to propose to you that the scheme is piloted in advance here in Hartlepool.'
Lord Rooker's reply says: 'The government shares your concern about the devastating effect a small number of unscrupulous landlords, when they gravitate to areas of low housing demands, and their anti-social tenants in the private rented sector can have on local communities.
'Licensed landlords will be required to provide acceptable management standards and take reasonable responsibility for the people to whom they let their properties. We believe selective landlord licensing will be a useful tool for local authorities to combat the havoc and misery such people can have on communities.
'The government intends to bring these measurements forward in a Housing Bill that will be presented to parliament as soon as a legislative slot is available. I understand why you are anxious to have a pilot scheme in Hartlepool, pending the introduction of the legislation. However, as selective licensing will require new legal powers and penalties, such schemes cannot be implemented anywhere until parliament has provided the legal powers required'.
Lord Rooker thanked the mayor for the invitation to visit Hartlepool, but said in light of Nick Raynsford's (the local government minister) visit earlier this year and 'the considerable pressure on my diary', he would have to decline.
Speaking today, Mr Drummond said: 'It is encouraging that the minister shares the views of many people in Hartlepool by recognising that this is a major problem. I am, however, disappointed that the government has turned down our offer to pilot the scheme in Hartlepool.
'We do have good working relationships with most of our landlords - the problems are being caused by a minority. In the meantime we will be doing everything possible to encourage landlords to sign up to the voluntary scheme'.