Selective Licensing scheme overturned in Brighton

by Readers Question

10:34 AM, 5th November 2018
About A week ago

Selective Licensing scheme overturned in Brighton

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Selective Licensing scheme overturned in Brighton

iHowz have been in dispute with Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) regarding their proposed Selective Licensing scheme (see background – below).

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After appropriate thought and consideration on October 31st 2018 the SoS has notified iHowz that he has now withdrawn his confirmation and has agreed to reconsider the matter.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.
ends.

Background:-
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.

Peter



Comments

David Price

11:18 AM, 5th November 2018
About A week ago

iHowz is the only landlord organisation with the bottle to challenge these perverse schemes. All the other landlord associations should be ashamed of themselves and are certainly not worth of our patronage.
Support iHowz and the new Landlord Alliance, two complementary organisations.

Luke P

11:39 AM, 5th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by David Price at 05/11/2018 - 11:18
Is iHowz area-specific, David?

David Price

12:23 PM, 5th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 05/11/2018 - 11:39
Most definitely not, iHowz is a re-branding of the Southern Landlords Association which although based in Brighton was always a national organisation. If I may quote from the re-branding letter
"The SLA has always had membership base that spans the breadth of the United Kingdom, and enjoys an
excellent reputation after 45 years of representing professional landlords. As such, the SLA has grown to a
size that demands a re-brand and enhanced products that reflects its growing national based clients. After
much consideration, the SLA has decided to re-brand to iHowz, to improve membership numbers, and
consequently services to members.
After Tuesday April 3 rd we will become iHowz (as in 'I house tenants). Where the i is for information; and
the How is How to do things properly."

Alan Bromley

16:34 PM, 5th November 2018
About A week ago

As a small landlord with 3 properties in Brighton & Hove (2 of which would have come under this scheme) I am please to hear that it's come unstuck although knowing BHCC they will persist. What's crazy is that if you undergo a training course (£150) you get a discount. I don't manage my own properties, I use an excellent letting agent, but I don't get a discount for that.

Dr Rosalind Beck

16:34 PM, 6th November 2018
About A week ago

The anti-private landlord MP who would like to see compulsory purchase of private landlords' properties is moaning about this as well. He spoke on it in parliament:

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Last week, Southern Landlords Association filed for judicial review on selective licensing in Brighton. The Government’s response was to revoke the licence to regulate the private sector. This is not the first judicial review to derail selective licensing. In respect of the particular issue I am working on with the Minister, is it now not time to review the way selective licensing works and to stop judicial reviews, particularly vexatious ones like those from Southern Landlords Association, derailing the ability of councils to regulate the private sector and rogue landlords?

Luke P

16:58 PM, 6th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 06/11/2018 - 16:34
You can only be certain it's vexatious if it is heard and assessed accordingly, otherwise it's merely his opinion, which he has stated as though it is fact.

James Mann

17:21 PM, 6th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 06/11/2018 - 16:34
The scheme that Brighton and Hove Council were trying to bring in has had an unlawful consultation and was not in line with government policy. It would effectively steal over £12 million from Brighton landlords and offer nothing to tenants other than higher rents!

Tim

18:55 PM, 6th November 2018
About A week ago

Interesting reading on the MP speech. This infuriates me and only stokes anti landlord sentiment that in turn undermines the landlord and tenant relationships.

Brighton and Hove City Council conducted an “independent report” before the licencing proposals were put forward. The findings from this were then skewed in BHCC favour with a statisticaly interesting interpretetation of the results put forward to committee!. Only the parts that would be pro licencing were chosen with the vote on bringing in the licencing surprises surprise being a unanimous yes amongst councillors Kangaroo court type ruling.

So far my experience with BHCC as a brighton landlord has been pretty dismal, saying this I have met a couple of very good environmental health officers but also more that are completely clueless insisting on extra sockets in kitchens where not all the existing ones are used on one property whilst some completely overlooking some pretty awful property with them passing licencing with some pretty obvious building defects.

Licencing has in my opinion failed and has only served to create another cost that ultimately goes back to the tenant it’s a simple lesson in economics as landlord costs go up so do rents.

If we could get promotion of good landlord tenant relationships and concentrate on actually catching the rogue landlords rather than a blanket approach then we may actually start making some progress.

James Mann

19:07 PM, 6th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Tim at 06/11/2018 - 18:55
I agree Tim, disgraceful behaviour by Brighton and Hove Council. I imagine councils all around the country are getting away with this type of unlawful behaviour, without being questioned by the larger landlord organisations. Well done IHOWZ.

Robert Mellors

17:36 PM, 12th November 2018
About 2 days ago

Could iHowz perhaps share the wording of their "objections" with other landlord groups, such as the new Landlord Alliance?

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