SOUTHEND Council is set to consider a £12million scheme to license private housing landlords across the borough.

If implemented, the scheme could see up to 20,000 private landlords pay about £1,000 for a licence to rent out their properties.

Rogue landlords, whose tenants suffer squalid conditions but who are afraid to complain because of threats of eviction, could then see action taken against them and get their licences revoked.

The proposals, which include three options, will be discussed by the policy and resources scrutiny committee tomorrow.

The council rejected calls for a licensing scheme in 2012 and entered into an agreement with the newly formed South Essex Alliance of Landlords and Residents (SEAL).

The self-regulating scheme effectively allowed landlords to police themselves and resulted in initiatives to tidy up unkempt properties in the town centre.

However the town now has 23 per cent of housing in the rental sector, much of it in houses of multiple occupation, (HMOs).

Some of these are considered as below standard and some have criticised SEAL for failing to adequately maintain standards.

The council is looking at the best way to use the Government’s recently introduced and enhanced powers awarded to councils to deal with substandard properties.

In October last year an opposition group called for the licensing scheme to replace the agreement with SEAL.

The council then faced fierce criticism after eight councillors, who are also landlords, sought to vote on the issue.

Normally when councillors have a personal or prejudicial interest in a topic they excuse themselves but on this matter they successfully overturned the rule.

It meant councillors with a financial interest in an issue were able to vote on the issue.

In total seven Conservative councillors and one Independent successfully had the rule against councillors voting on anything in which they have a financial interest overturned for this issue.

The council will be asked to decide whether to revise the current system and use powers to deal with substandard properties in serious cases, run a quasi licensing scheme where some landlords are and some are not or impose a full licensing scheme on landlords responsible for private rental properties with about 20,000 homes involved.