Brighton Licensing Scheme overturned
As part of the process, BHCC had to apply to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (SoS) to obtain his confirmation for the scheme.
The SoS gave confirmation to BHCC on September 10th 2018, but iHowz objected and wrote to both BHCC and the SoS stating their reasons why this confirmation was unlawful.
After appropriate thought and consideration on October 31st 2018 the SoS has notified iHowz that he has now withdrawn his confirmation and has agreed to reconsider the matter. This will also require BHCC to re-consider their position.
iHowz have released the following statement:-
‘We took this action because we felt the decision to license some 27,000 rental properties was unlawful, unnecessary and not justified by the evidence provided, and would almost certainly lead to rent increases for many private sector tenants in Brighton.
Licensing was brought in 2006 to allow local Councils to control a small area of rental properties being poorly managed bringing that area into disrepute. We support licensing when used for that purpose.
We cannot, and have never supported the carte blanche licensing of large areas.
We have previously offered to work with the Council to help improve rental conditions for private sector tenants in the City; improve property conditions in a cost effective manner where required; and most importantly identify the possibility of criminal landlords, and we repeat that offer.
Furthermore we urge the Council to work with us to extend our existing programme of landlord training in the City to improve landlord knowledge so they can give the best and most efficient service to their tenants.’
iHowz are writing to BHCC urging them to work with local landlords through its office. Additionally iHowz have urged the SoS to consider the future of mass licensing schemes. iHowz have also offered to meet both BHCC and the Government for further discussions.
However, if BHCC persists in seeking SOS’s confirmation for its scheme, iHowz will continue to oppose the application on the grounds that it would be unlawful.
BHCC have all three licensing schemes:-
1. the national mandatory scheme for any HMO with 5 (or more) occupants – city wide – commenced October 1st 2018;
2. Additional Licensing, for HMO’s of two (or more) storeys occupied by 3 (or more) occupants – city wide – commenced March 1st 2018;
3. Selective Licensing for any non-HMO in 12 wards in the city – was due to commence Feb 4th 2019.
iHowz objected to the need for the Selective Licensing of some 27,000 properties in the nominated 12 wards. We attempted to discuss and negotiate the situation with BHCC but they took the decision earlier this year to proceed.
The only way to object to such a scheme is by a Judicial Review (JR) of the decision. The rules regarding a JR application are complicated, but it is important to make the initial application (it is a two stage process) as soon as possible, and definitely within a three month window of the decision being made.
Because it is such a large scheme BHCC had to apply to the Secretary of State for Housing (SoS) for permission to continue. It was unclear to the legal fraternity whether we should await the SoS decision, which might have taken us outside the three month window, so we applied early to the High Court. The High Court subsequently informed us that we would have to await the SoS decision.
BHCC applied to the SoS on two perceived problems in the designated area, both of which BHCC stated were within the potential to be managed by the landlord:-
1. anti-social behaviour (ASB);
2. poor property conditions.
We wrote to the SoS countering these claims.
The SoS responded that BHCC could continue, but only on the basis of poor property conditions, because there was insufficient evidence to justify ASB problems.
Naturally we disagreed with this and continued to fight this case. We decided to challenge the SoS’s decision and asked the SoS for the justification for this decision, repeating our objections. The SoS gave this appropriate consideration and decided to withdraw the original decision.
This leaves BHCC in the position to either abandon Selective Licensing altogether; appeal the reversal; or to start the process again, possibly with a smaller area not requiring SoS permission.