It has been ruled by the Court of Appeal that councils should not be able to use selective licensing conditions to impose certain standards on homes in the private rental sector.
The Court’s ruling comes after a case that involves Paul Brown, an Accrington landlord. Mr Brown challenged Hyndburn Council after it attempted to use its selective licensing scheme in certain areas of the borough to force the implementation of carbon monoxide detectors in privately rented properties.
The council also attempted to use the scheme to encourage landlords to carry out electrical safety checks and implement their findings.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) supported the case from Mr Brown. Mr Brown had carried out both of the requirements from the local council but argued that the imposition of such standards via a licensing scheme went beyond the powers that should be available to local authorities.
When the case was taken to the Court of Appeal, the court agreed with Brown. The Court, Brown and the RLA argued that rather than relying on licensing schemes which only cover certain properties, the council should use the ‘extensive powers’ that they already possess under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to address electrical and gas safety issues.
HHSRS applies to all homes in the private rental sector whether they require a licence or not. The RLA is calling for additional guidance associated with the HHSRS. The legislation was last updated in 2006 and should be added to to reflect considerable changes to the private rental sector since then.
RLA policy adviser Richard Jones spoke out about the case: ‘This case was not about trying to stop councils from imposing requirements. It was about how they go about this ensuring that they use the proper processes which already exist. Today’s judgement is a reminder that councils already have extensive powers to deal with properties found to be unsafe and they must act in a legal manner.’