Survey to hunt out unscrupulous B&B-type landlords

Trafalgar Road's guest houses shine, but some other landlords could exploit the system.

Trafalgar Road's guest houses shine, but some other landlords could exploit the system. - Credit: Archant

A HOUSING survey is aiming to lift the lid on the amount of low quality bedsits threatening to hamper the holiday trade in Great Yarmouth.

Dozens of questionnaires have been sent out to businesses purporting to trade as hotels or guest houses asking, among other things, the nationality of those who live there.

Glenn Buck, community protection manager at the borough council, said a surplus of B&B type accommodation left over from a 1950s heyday was ripe for exploitation among unscrupulous landlords, often for the migrant worker market.

The battle he said had already been partly lost in the secondary holiday zone where planners faced with empty hotels had been forced to relent. But with some guest houses in the primary holiday area now morphing into HMO’s (houses of multiple occupation) the council needed to know the scale of the problem before it could properly tackle it, he added.

“There are 40 or 50 licensed HMO’s that we know of, but that is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“Plenty of places have a B&B sign above the door but have not been a guest house for donkey’s years. People are using them for housing and those who live there have no other address in the UK.

“We are finding some real horror stories where people are living in overcrowded, unsafe conditions, without fire escapes and inadequate shared facilities. Others have a mixed use and there are all sorts of issues there.

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“Also there can be an degree of anti social behaviour and a concern about erosion of holiday accommodation.

Mr Buck said the council appreciated the slide into HMO’s was a “sign of the times” with some guest houses taking migrant workers in over the winter but reverting to holiday use in the summer to make ends meet.

“We have got issues and it’s not an easy ride,” he said. “If they are permanent homes they need to be decent, and many of them are clean and very good. We want to know the extent of the problem then we can put some resources into tackling it.”

Often landlords were operating in breach of planning regulations and overcharging tenants, he said. A few high-profile prosecutions had seen HMO’s shut down, their inhabitants “melting” back into the town but sometimes moved back into boarded up buildings by defiant landlords.

“We are not trying to put B&Bs out of business, we appreciate the difficult trading conditions. But we cannot sanction breaking the law. The bona fide business community are keen for us to take these out of the primary holiday area,” Mr Buck said.

Malcolm Bird, who runs a guest house in Euston Road and is a director of the tourist authority welcomed the move.

He said: “They are here and they are here to stay. What needs to be put into action is the infrastructure that allows for that. The problem is it changes the character of the area. They are a short term answer to a long term problem. I have complained about the quality of these buildings. If they are doing something decent hoteliers will be pleased.”