HOUSING officers have carried out 357 property inspections in Bournemouth, as part of the council’s fight against ‘rogue landlords’ and antisocial behaviour.

The project, which has been running six months, has effectively extended the principles of Operation Galaxy – the programme which targeted slum landlords in parts of Boscombe and ended last year.

Eight cases of ‘cuckooing’ – where a drug addict is coerced into using their home as a base for dealers – have been uncovered and 26 vulnerable adults identified.

Officers, who carried out 563 visits across the East Cliff, Springbourne and Boscombe areas of Bournemouth, have served 31 informal warnings to landlords in relation to accumulation of waste, noise or untidy sites. An additional 24 informal community protection warnings have also been issued.

Landlords in the target area were issued with 37 formal notices for poor housing conditions, and 17 formal notices for environmental issues.

Bournemouth council housing cabinet member Cllr Bob Lawton said: “We would rather use persuasion than prosecution. Some landlords are probably unaware they are breaking any regulations. Prosecution is our last resort, but we will prosecute if we have to.”

In November 2017 the council’s cabinet decided against proposals to introduce ‘selective licensing’, which was opposed by the National Landlords Association and would have required landlords in the Boscombe area to buy licences for the properties they let.

Instead, civic chiefs agreed to roll out the current targeted enforcement programme.

A Bournemouth council spokesman said: “So far all formal notices have been complied or are in the process of works and there has been no need for prosecution.

“Proactive inspections look to identify key deficiencies such as fire safety, damp and mould, excess cold and significant hazards.”

If you have concerns about property conditions, contact operation.galaxy@bournemouth.gov.uk or call 01202 454 923.

Landlords across the area are being urged to find out whether changes to rules affecting houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) mean they must apply for a licence.

Failure to do so could result in an unlimited fine or civil penalty of up to £30,000.

Private landlords who have a residential property with five or more people, with two or more unrelated persons sharing washing or cooking facilities, are now classed as an HMO under new rules introduced by government which came into force in October 2018. From April 1, 2019, the council says it will be ‘robustly enforcing the new regulations’ which includes applying for late payment fees, civil penalties or possible prosecutions.