WREXHAM’S housing chief admits that a plan to force private landlords to licence their premises could increase the number of homeless people in the borough.

Cllr Mark Pritchard, lead member for housing, also believes the scheme, which would carry a £20,000 fine for those not registering, will be impossible to enforce.

Only premises with the highest risk – with three or more storeys or five or more occupants sharing facilities – currently need to be licensed and 26 are currently accredited in Wrexham.

At their meeting tomorrow members of the council’s social affairs, health and housing scrutiny committee, will be asked to back the licensing of about 900 other houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

These include shared houses, bedsits and properties converted into self-contained flats.

Council officers carried out a wide-ranging consultation on the proposal late last year when the majority of landlords questioned were opposed to it.

In a report, the council’s head of housing and public protection Andy Lewis says: “Licensing costs and the administrative burden may drive landlords to leave the sector or to increase rents and this will increase the pressures on homelessness and affordable housing.”

Cllr Pritchard, lead member for housing, recently told the Leader of an “unprecedented” 14 per cent rise in homelessness during the first few months of this year.

And he said this week: “The licensing scheme could increase homelessness.”

He also questioned whether the council could afford to enforce the scheme.

Janet Loudon, Shelter Cymru’s operations manager based in Wrexham, said: “We would support a move to extend compulsory licensing of HMOs.

“It would improve standards for tenants and help to create responsible landlords.

“There is no evidence to suggest that extending licensing to smaller properties would result in a significant number of landlords leaving the rental market .”