The Court of Appeal has ruled that councils cannot use selective licensing conditions to impose new standards on private rented homes.
In what some analysts regard as a landmark decision, the case saw Paul Brown, a landlord in Accrington, challenging Hyndburn council which sought to use its selective licensing scheme in certain areas to force the installation of carbon monoxide detectors and also to carry out electrical safety checks and implement their findings.
The case was supported by the Residential Landlords Association.
A statement issued after the decision by the RLA says Brown had already carried out both of these requirements, but he argued that imposing such standards through licensing schemes went beyond the powers available to local authorities.
The Court of Appeal agreed.
Brown and the RLA argued that rather than relying on licensing schemes which only cover certain properties, electrical and gas safety issues are best addressed by councils using the extensive powers they already have under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
This is the risk-based evaluation tool to help local authorities identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. Crucially, this applies to all private rented homes, whether they require a licence or not.
The RLA is calling for the guidance associated with the HHSRS, which was last published in 2006, to be updated urgently to reflect considerable changes in the sector since then. This would better support councils to use and enforce their powers under this system.
“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” says RLA policy adviser, Richard Jones.
“[This] 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.”