The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that councils cannot use selective landlord licensing schemes to impose new controls on private rental homes.
The case saw Paul Brown, a landlord in Accrington, challenge Hyndburn Council, which sought to use its selective licensing scheme in certain areas of the borough to force the installation of carbon monoxide detectors, and also to carry out electrical safety checks and implement their findings. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) supported the case.
While Brown had already conducted both of these requirements, he argued that imposing such standards through licensing schemes went beyond the powers available to local authorities. The Court of Appeal agreed.
Instead, the court, 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 that 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 rental 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. It believes that this would better support councils to use and enforce their powers under the system.
Richard Jones, the Policy Adviser at the RLA, says: “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.”