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Cross-party support for new mandatory landlord register

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Alex Maskey welcomed support for the motion

Alex Maskey welcomed support for the motion

Alex Maskey welcomed support for the motion

South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has welcomed cross-party support for his Assembly motion proposing mandatory landlord registration.

However, the politician said he was “extremely disappointed” at the response from Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie.

Mr Maskey proposed the motion last week, in the hope that it will help address the problems facing residents in the Holy Land.

In March last year, 12 people were arrested in the area as troubled marred St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Students there have frequently been accused of causing trouble and Mr Maskey believes there are too many people living in shared accommodation which is not monitored.

As a subsequence, he tabled a motion calling on Ms Ritchie to implement mandatory landlord registration.

“This motion highlights one element of this problem (in the Holy Land) and is timely because last August the Department of Social Development closed its consultation on a strategy for the private rental sector,” he said.

“The responses to that consultation would indicate that there is widespread support for the mandatory registration of landlords.

“I would welcome the fact that this motion received cross-party support in the Assembly.

“However, I was extremely disappointed at the attitude of Margaret Ritchie during the debate.”

Ms Ritchie had expressed her surprise at the motion, saying that such a “robust” registration scheme for HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) was already in place.

She said 336 out of an identified 883 HMOs were now registered, with the remainder coming on board by 2012.

However, Mr Maskey accused the minister of “clouding” the issue by referring only to the HMO register, saying that level of monitoring did not go far enough.

“The HMO register is well behind schedule and is not expected to be complete until 2012,” he said.

“Already many streets in the Holy Land, lower Ormeau, lower Malone and Stranmillis have exceeded the limits of occupancy, which were set out in specific targets last year.

“And landlords can get around this register by converting their property to flats and apartments, rather than letting them as multi-occupancy houses.”

Mr Maskey said the onus was now on Ms Ritchie to introduce what he described as “this badly-needed piece of legislation.”

Meanwhile, Strangford MLA Simon Hamillton said that while he supported mandatory registration in principal, he was concerned about cost and effectiveness.

Similar schemes in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland had met with such problems, he said.

Belfast Telegraph