LEGAL CHALLENGE TO NOTTINGHAM'S ADDITIONAL LICENSING SCHEME DISMISSED BY JUDGE
 

After extensive and detailed consultation (Nottingham Consultation on Additional Licensing of HMOs February-May 2013Nottingham City Council introduced additional licensing to selected areas of Nottingham. This was challenged in the High Court by EMPO (East Midlands Property Owners) who attempted to take the Council to Judicial Review.

A High Court judge heard the case on Thursday 12 March 2015 and, as reported in a Nottingham City Council press release (Friday 20 March 2015), the judge ...

'has thrown out a legal challenge made by a group of landlords to a City Council licensing scheme aimed at improving the quality of private rented accommodation in Nottingham.

The Council’s additional licensing scheme was introduced in January 2014 to ensure that privately rented houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in a significant part of the city centre and inner city area are managed properly and meet basic standards for quality and safety.

The scheme is also at helping to reduce complaints about noise, rubbish, and other anti-social behaviour.

East Midlands Property Owners Ltd had sought a judicial review of the scheme on various grounds but this has now been refused by Mr Justice Wilkie.

Councillor Dave Liversidge, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, Housing and Voluntary Sector, said: “People living in HMOs, and private rented accommodation generally, have a right to expect a decent standards. The additional licensing scheme is one of a number of initiatives we are undertaking with partners to ensure they get this.

“It was extremely disappointing that EMPO chose to challenge the scheme rather than work with us as many landlords have been more than happy to do, but we’re obviously very pleased that the judge has ruled in our favour.”

“It’s important to note that EMPOs challenge didn’t simply fail on a legal technicality. The judge carefully considered the scheme, believed it to be rational and reasonable and ruled that there were no grounds for a judicial review.“

The private rented sector in Nottingham is growing with over 27,000 properties in the city. As well as responsibility for housing conditions across all types of homes, the Council has specific responsibilities in relation to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

As HMOs – shared houses, bedsits etc with three or more storeys and five or more occupiers – generally have a higher density of occupation and are potentially a higher risk, there is national legislation in place to require them to be licensed. Nottingham has an estimated 1,700 HMOs of this type.

However, there are many more HMOs in Nottingham which do not fall under this national mandatory licensing scheme. This led to the City Council introducing additional licensing covering areas where these properties are in the highest density and where they are most likely to have the biggest local impact due to anti-social behaviour associated with the property, poor management or unsatisfactory living conditions.

Out of around 3,200 HMOs covered by the new scheme, there have been 1,497 licence applications so far. Of these, 59% have required further licence conditions to improve the property.

In addition to the Additional Licensing scheme for HMOs, Nottingham has an accreditation scheme called the Nottingham Standard in order to recognise private rented homes that are well managed and provide a good standard of accommodation with no hazards to safety. When the Council directs anyone seeking support in finding a private rented home they are directed to this scheme.  Unipol provide the scheme in relation to student housing while a regional organisation called DASH (Decent and Safe Homes) administers the scheme which covers the whole of the private rented sector.'

For the NAG's submission to the consultation, visit:

1 May 2013: Comments by the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) in Relation to the Proposal by Nottingham City Council to Implement Additional Licensing in a Specified Area of the City


  EDITORIAL COMMENT

The fact that of those 1,497 HMOs covered by the Additional Licensing scheme, where an application has been made for a licence, 59% have required further licence conditions to improve the property should be sufficient justification for the need for the scheme.

It is to be hoped that the owners/agents of the remaining 2,500+ HMOs who have not applied for licences will do so now.

It is not going to be either easy to set aside the bruising encounters of the past, or indeed is it entirely desirable to do so: they are part of the learning process.

However, the hope is that this High Court judgement marks the beginning of a new and positive phase in relationships between all the organisations and individuals with an interest in making sure that

♦the private rented sector in Nottingham is professional and responsible;

♦that all tenants have decent, safe and well-managed accommodation;

♦and that their neighbours and the neighbourhoods in which they live are not disadvantaged by the problems that have come to be associated very particularly in this instance with HMOs.

To achieve this is one of the NAG's goals, which is why the NAG supported Nottingham City Council's decision to implement the Additional Licensing Scheme, and why the NAG will continue to support the Nottingham Standard and, when it comes to student HMOs, Unipol.