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May 6, 2009 12:01 AM

Reports that the Government is to include a new requirement for registration of all landlords in a Green Paper due to be produced later this month have received a cool reaction from Newcastle Lib Dem campaigners.

Initial reports in the Times newspaper suggest that a new green paper may require a £50 registration fee for all landlords, as part of proposals to ensure better management of rented housing which would require minimum standards to be met and landlords who intimidate tenants to be 'struck off'.

However, Newcastle East Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman Greg Stone is calling for the Government to ensure that any new legislation gives local authorities significantly enhanced powers in respect of rented housing policy and is not just an excuse to introduce a "stealth tax" on landlords.

Rented housing is set to be an important issue in the constituency at the next General Election.

The Lib Dems are making the topic an election priority and are campaigning for more controls on the sector, which has mushroomed in recent years as a result in the growth of the student population.

"The Lib Dems have been campaigning on the issue of rented housing in Newcastle East for many years in the face of sneering and inaction from Labour," said Greg Stone.

"The news that a Green Paper is imminent is welcome, and we welcome the news that a registration requirement for all landlords is to be introduced as we have called for this for a long time.

"However we very much hope that it will offer more than just a stealth tax on landlords, as there is a real need for substantive powers to significantly raise standards in the rented sector.

"We call upon the Government to include change of use planning permission requirements for conversion of residential properties into rented houses of multiple occupation, and to introduce a new duty to make landlords responsible for ensuring that the exterior of properties are properly maintained and subject to an annual inspection.

"Failure to introduce significant new powers will leave the Green Paper toothless to tackle the issues raised with us by local residents, and will be a major missed opportunity."