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Enfield PRS licensing scheme

Enfield Council’s private rented sector housing licensing scheme was on shaky ground. There was strong and reasoned opposition to it at public consultations, at the cabinet meeting and at the council’s overview & scrutiny committee. On 11 December 2015, Enfield Council lost a judicial review of its additional and selective licensing schemes in the High Court (see update below).

Update Friday 3 October 2014 – Permission hearing

In a detailed judgement on Friday 3rd October 2014, lasting 1.5 hours, Mr Justice Ouseley found that the council’s decision in relation to borough-wide “selective licensing” of single family private rented dwellings was taken lawfully, based on the information provided to the Council’s cabinet. (More on this below.) However, he ruled that the local authority had not applied its mind to the legal requirements for licensing of other private rented sector property and the decision by Enfield Council was “arguably unlawful”. He gave permission to proceed with judicial review of that part of the licensing scheme, affecting 40% of rented property in the borough, according to the council’s own estimate.

Update, 27 Nov 2014 – Court of Appeal adds selective licensing to challenge:

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lewison granted permission to add a challenge to selective licensing back to the case and ordered the challenges be heard together. This article in Property Industry Eye has more info.

The judicial review of the whole scheme was heard on Wednesday 26 November in the High Court, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand. The trial lasted all day. We decided to go with our strongest points, rather than use broader but weaker grounds. In particular, our barristers put points to His Honour Judge McKenna about whether the people of Enfield and the 6 surrounding boroughs were consulted properly (if at all) about the council’s plans and how the council responded to objections raised during the consultations.

Update 15 December 2015:

On Thursday 11 December, His Honor Judge McKenna, sitting as a High Court judge, handed down his judgment (available here). Judge McKenna quashed (cancelled) Enfield Council’s designations for additional and selective licensing schemes, which would have required all private rented property in the borough to be licensed from 1 April 2015.

 

In his handed down judgment, Judge McKenna said that “the implementation and operation of an unlawful designation is a continuing unlawful act”. He found that Enfield Council had failed to consult the persons who should have been consulted (including in the 6 surrounding boroughs) and did not consult for the required time. At the end of the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, HHJ McKenna refused permission for Enfield to appeal against the decision.  If Enfield Council want to appeal, they will have to ask the Court of Appeal for permission.

Constantinos Regas is the landlord of just one property, which is in the borough. He brought the case against the council after repeatedly speaking against the proposals at council meetings. Most recently he spoke at the Council’s cabinet meeting of 12 November, where he warned the council’s cabinet that a judge had already found that part of the scheme was “arguably unlawful” and that they should not go ahead with it.
Speaking after the judgment was handed down, Constantinos said “I have always maintained my view that good housing standards are a human right. But Enfield Council have not gone about this the right way. They have accused tenants of being antisocial and have sought to criminalise landlords for tenants’ behaviour. The Council have now been found acting unlawfully. The Council’s Cabinet and senior officers have demonised tenants, defiled democracy and disgraced themselves. They threw good money after bad in defending this case, despite me putting them on notice in June that they were not acting properly. The citizens of Enfield should welcome the resignations of the entire cabinet and senior officers.”
Constantinos initially represented himself. At the final trial he was represented by Jonathan Manning and Justin Bates, both of Arden Chambers.
Constantinos also said: “I want to thank everyone for their financial and practical support. I also want to thank our barristers for their advocacy and our local MPs, David Burrowes and Nick de Bois for their assistance. I want to encourage landlords to improve housing standards in the borough, without a licensing scheme. That includes the biggest landlord in the borough – the council itself – which was exempt from the scheme. I will make a further announcement in due course.”
Costs will be subject to detailed assessment. Pending the outcome of the costs assessment, we are still accepting crowdfunding. Thank you all for your support.

We are still accepting crowdfunding for our legal action. We have won the judicial review but Enfield Council may appeal against the decision. This fund is designed as an insurance policy (the link has more info). We suggest a minimum contribution of £100 per property, given what is at stake in fees, fines and extra works due to the council’s ability to add discretionary extra licence conditions. Your contribution to our fighting fund, which you will get back in part or in full if we finally win, would be most welcome. 

Click here to support the Campaign Against Landlord Licensing Legal Fund

The pledge meter refreshes every 30 minutes and shows how you have helped meet our target. The meter shows pledges, rather than contributions actually in our bank account.

 

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Enfield’s additional and selective licensing scheme will require all landlords in the borough, and all private rented property, to be licensed. The scheme will come into force on 1 April 2015, although the council is planning to accept applications from 1 November 2014.

You can read our previous blogs on it here, including a review of the “evidence base” and what went on in public meetings.

The licence scheme will pass responsibility for the behaviour of tenants to landlords, who could face a £5,000 fine. Will landlords respond by increasing deposit requirements? And what about the licence condition that bans commercial vehicles from driveways and other off-street parking? What does the council have against tradesmen living in rental property or indeed carrying out gas safety inspections or repairs there? The flyer below contains more details.

Amazingly the application for judicial review of the scheme has been made by a landlord who just has one property, which happens to be in the borough. He is a non-lawyer who has managed to mount a legal challenge. He is taking a huge personal risk because he has no backers. Whether he is brave or crazy is another matter but this website is happy to support the “little guy” in the face of a powerful local authority. He is the same person who was shouted down by a pro-licensing councillor after he summarised all the reasons why this scheme is a bad idea.

If his case passes the application stage, it means that a judge thinks there is merit in the case. If he gets permission from a judge to proceed, the sensible thing for Enfield to do would be to think about whether they can win. They have said they will “vigorously defend” the claim. If they are on shaky ground, they should pull out.

What needs to be happen now is for landlords and tenants in the borough to back the case. This website is being used to facilitate that contact. People can leave public comments below or use the contact page to get in touch privately. The person bringing the claim has asked us to use this website to pass on details confidentially.

This is an important issue for tenants, not just landlords
If you need a reminder of why this is an important issue for all groups, not just landlords, have a look at the factsheet below, which is also available for download as a pdf.

You can also look at the licence conditions for yourself, as well as the council’s frequently asked questions.

Enfield PRS licensing factsheet

44 thoughts on “Enfield PRS licensing scheme”

  1. if this act of communism , ever did come into tuition , there would be a surge of corruption within the council. a bad , wrong , ill thought idea. justice was made , but of course you are dealing with the mighty council where spending other peoples money is not an issue.they should be refused an appeal and this should give warrant to the instigators to be SACKED with immediate effect.
    this is an unlawful idea , which one brave landlord spotted and had the guts to punish them ….well done mr regas.

  2. I have just found out this vile and cold calculated thought policy ,which Enfield council will be implementing. Why do we have police ? Why do we pay council tax which includes refuge collection ? The list is endless, my friends there is a bigger motive behind this we shall all be united and stop this cold harm full calculated licence scheme ,even a protest outside the council. What makes them feel a normal person living next door to a family which is a tenant any different?
    We are not living in a communist country , or are we?
    This will open all doors to criminals which will act like council officials to rob people , how ill thought proposal from one or two idiots who have taken this on a personal level.

  3. Like parking meters and speeding cameras charges, the councils wish to make more money for grabs.The Enfield Council is becoming dictatorial and this scheme ought to be rejected.

    1. If the law is clear-cut then that’s absolutely right. But where the law is open to interpretation (e.g. with wording such as “significant and persistent”) then the evidence base comes into it. Legal challenges can result in case law that clarifies the original legislation.

  4. “As a House of Commons briefing note recently stated: “As a general rule, landlords are not responsible for the actions of their tenants as long as they have not ‘authorised’ the anti-social behaviour. Despite having the power to seek a court order for eviction when tenants exhibit anti-social behaviour, private landlords are free to decide whether or not to take action against their tenants. The question of whether a landlord can be held liable for the nuisance of its tenants has been considered in a number of cases.

    “It is established that no claim can be sustained in nuisance where the nuisance is caused by an extraordinary use of the premises concerned, for example by the tenants being noisy or using drugs on the premises. The rationale behind this approach is that it is up to the victim of the nuisance to take action against the perpetrator. To found an action in negligence against a landlord the victim must show that there has been a breach of a duty of care owed by the alleged perpetrator.”

    It would also appear to be the case that Enfield Council is acting altogether outside the law. They are enabled under the Act to make designations of areas [plural] within the area [singular] of their jurisdiction subject to each area designated being subject to one or both of two problems: that it is an area of low rent [implying poor housing stock] or is an area subject to AN UNUSUAL degree of anti-social behaviour. UNUSUAL is a comparative, requiring comparator areas to be available. Thus not only does the Act specify ‘areas’ within the ‘area’ of the jurisdiction, thus making clear that the whole area may not be designated, it requires a comparator which is not possible if the whole area is designated.

    I would encourage all landlords affected to refuse to pay, to allow themselves to be taken to Court, and then to defend.

  5. A law in this case disguised as a licence, is meant to protect the public. ASB, in what ever form it takes, is illegal and therefore complaints about ASB of another should go to the police. The Police changed the focus of all Metropolitan Police Boroughs to Local Policing teams in June 2013, to tackle ASB and serve the community. LBE know this. so what is their real objective?

    Any tenant committing ASB, cannot be just evicted by a landlord overnight, or the landlord will be prosecuted for unlawful eviction. The landlord has to go to court at great expense, which takes months. Therefore are they going to be fined by the LBE as well?

    This is blatent money making at the expense of the small landlord. LBE says PSR has doubled (i.e 100% increase) and complaints re ASB are over 60% increased, therefore that is less ASB per PSR property, not more. How can it be legal to potentially take some one’s property due to behaviour of tenants, but council tenants have no recourse to get the council fined if they have neighbours committing ABS.

    If the council takes possession of private property, will they continue to charge interest on their fine or whatever charge, until they say the fine exceeds the value of the property and therefore effectively take a landlord’s property for nothing? This is why building societies will refuse a mortgage on properties in these areas. If so, many properties would be sold and therefore it may decrease property prices.

    Devising an unnecessary licence that may end up in the council taking effective possession of a home, which they then will rent out, seems tantamount to theft. It’s surreal and very concerning. I am definitely against it.

    Delia

  6. Big thanks to Mustafa at Two Six Homes, not just for the financial support but also for promoting our campaign and organising a meeting of landlords in his premises where we spread the word.

  7. Massive thanks to Matt Duce of Ellis & Co. not just for his generous contribution to the fighting fund but also for the huge effort he has put in informing his landlords of the implications of the Council’s plans, getting them involved and promoting our campaign.

  8. Many thanks to Alex and the team at Paul Alexander Property Group for their support and generous donation to the Call Enfield Legal fighting Fund.

  9. I feel that this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Yes, there are bad landlords as well as bad tenants and the law should fall on both, however each person over the age of 18 ought to be responsible for their own actions.

    If an individual acts in an anti-social way then the laws of common sense would surely say he was in the wrong and should be reprimanded. Landlords are not in loco parentis. If adults misbehave their relatives are not held responsible for their misbehaviour.

    I am a reasonable person and I do my best for my tenants, who in return are pleasant and reasonable too. If we have a problem we sort it either through the letting agent or between ourselves and we don’t need the council to interfere with the smooth and amicable arrangements that exist..

  10. THIS IS A TAX ON EACH PROPERTY, OTHERWISE EACH LANDLORD WOULD ONLY NEED A SINGLE LICENSE IRRELEVANT TO HOW MANY PROPERTY’S HE OR SHE OWNS. WHO POLICES THE COUNCIL ?

    WHY SHOULD ANYONE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACTIONS OF ANOTHER ADULT IRRELEVANT TO THEIR LIVING STATUS ? WE ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN CHILDREN UP TO THE AGE OF 18, AFTER THAT THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEMSELVES, ITS THE LAW !

    THIS IS THERE BIGGER PLAN.

    THE COUNCIL WILL NOT GRANT LICENSES TO ALL PROPERTY’S, THE ONES THAT ARE NOT LICENSED ARE NOT ALLOWED TO REMAIN UNOCCUPIED, THEY WILL SLAP A COMPULSORY PURCHASE ORDER ON THEM AND THEN ADD THEM TO THEIR PORTFOLIO.

    THEY ARE SCAMMING.

    RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

    WOULD THERE BE A APPEAL PROCESS IF A LICENSE IS NOT GRANTED ? WHAT WOULD THE CRITERIA BE ?

    OUTRAGEOUS !!!!!

  11. Isn’t this an infringement of data protection act for both the tenant, who has to display the licence for all and sundry to see and for the licence holder to have to display their name and private address?

  12. I totally support this campaign and have given many hours of my time visiting letting agents in Enfield. I am contributing £1000 to the fighting fund, which is the only way to challenge this unreasonable licence scheme. Others should do the same.

  13. Both landlords and managing agents must fight this at all costs. It is a blatant infringement of civil rights as it imposes unreasonable conditions on individuals who have no direct control over compliance to all those conditions. If it is a method of controlling rogue landlords, it is disproportionate and rogue landlords may somehow find a way around it. If it is a method of raising additional funds, it may achieve this but at the same time drive good landlords away or stop new landlords from entering the sector. Perhaps a petition signed by landlords and agents might help but, if not, at the very least there should be some consultation to ensure that the conditions of a licensing system are reasonable and fair to all concerned, and not just for the benefit of the Council.

    1. A group called “Stop Enfield” organised a petition back in April. Despite gathering over 1,000 signatures, it got them heard but not much more. Our Campaign Against Landlord Licensing is not related to that group.

  14. I think the leader of the Labour Party should make a statement on this matter…. Only labour councils are imposing this massive back door tax on Landlords and Agents.

  15. I would sell my rental properties before paying out any Licencing fees to Enfield Council. If that happened that leaves a single mother with a 4 year old and a newborn baby to re-house! Good luck with that Enfield Council

  16. Enfield Council are landlords themselves, so are they going to get licences for each and every one of their tenanted properties. We will not be buying a licence, we will sell our property and then the Council will have to re-house them.

  17. The comments already contributed express many of the reasons why this scheme is unfair and absurd more eloquently than I can. I agree with them all wholeheartedly. It is unclear to me why, if this were a sensible idea, a landlord would need a separate licence for each property s/he rents out: I’m the same person no matter how many AST agreements may be in force. This is such an obvious tax on landlords. It is nothing else. All good wishes to the individual who is leading our fight against it.

  18. What you need to bear in mind here is that most, but not all councillors, are very narrow minded,self important, below average intelligent egotistic, arrogant, power hungry, nob heads, with nothing else in their lives. These are the same very people much like Shaun Wright the Rotherham crime commissioner, who was in charge of child social services, who have only one aim in life and that is to assert power over the little people, without any consideration as to the what the future consequences may bring. The are mostly in denial about what thier action, and the causes of them bring. This is the STATE trying to impose it’s force.

    The answer I believe here is rather simple. Two things can be done, firstly all landlords can in a joint open letter to a national newspaper declare that under no circumstances will any tenant seeking housing by LBE be housed in private accommodation. This will have an immediate ripple effect across the surrounding boroughs. Secondly, those .councillors intent on forging on with this action, need to be targeted,, dig up all the dirt on them that we can, make it public, and force them to resign. We remember the Council is there to serve the people, not the other way round. Finally I feel this could fall under the human rights legislation, as effectively what LBE are saying is that All private tenants are anti social, hence the reason for these rules. Oh one point, any law which criminalises you, must first be debated in parliament, and approved by the house of lords. So they may fine, but cannot convict.!

  19. if this law is passed what will enfield council do with there tenants that perform asbos will they issue themselves with a fine of up to 5000 or will they just ignore the issue and concentrate on going after the smaller and it appears less important independant persons and are the council going to pay for extra police patrols if commercial vehicles are going to be left on the public highway where they are obviosly at greater risk. if you think they are going to ignore the issue what not leave a message.

  20. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense. Some will be penalised because they let their property because they could not afford to live in them. They also may not be making any profit. Have they considered all these types of people?

  21. This licensing scheme is despicable. All our tenants are vetted and are professional people, so why are we being penalised when the police are equipped to deal with ASBO tenants. This is just an obvious money making scheme- and the charge will be passed onto the tenant. I object most strongly to this scheme

  22. If this was just about a few controls to ensure decent property standards and tenants rights to insist on that, they might even support it.

    However, these powers are not about that. They are excessive powers that infringe on civil liberties of tenants and landlords and about council control, and open to council abuse with excessive fines accordingly, even when no complaint made. The landlord will become responsible for things they can’t control within current law, so the landlord is set up to fail and get fined as the conditions are impossible to enforce 24/7 when an inspection can happen immediately but landlords need to give tenants 24 hours notice. Depends on how council feels, far too much power.

    Enforce restricted targeted licensing powers to help tenants sure, that is a good discussion. This is not that – it is an attack on civil liberties and discrimination against people who rent vs people who own (e.g. If you own your home you can park a commercial vehicle in your drive if the plumber turns up, with this law renters can’t!).

    Spread the word, bad law for landlords agents and tenants in current form. Chris.

  23. How sad and short-sighted that the London Borough of Enfield (LBE) feel that using punitive, oppressive and dictatorial mechanisms, which are clearly completely at odds with the day-to-day reality of landlord and tenant experiences, will somehow improve the experience of both stakeholders.

    I have personally experienced being a tenant and landlord over my lifetime and have the privilege of being a landlord to an overwhelmingly hard-working, honest group of tenants, many of whom are unfortunately struggling to cope with very difficult financial circumstances. We have an excellent give and take relationship all of whom I know personally and many who have lived in my properties for over a decade.

    In very rare instances, like many other landlords, I have experienced some very challenging individuals who have dealt drugs, used violence and committed criminal acts, whether as over-stayers or as citizens of the UK. In each case I have sought recourse and support from the statutory services and the rule of law. Sadly the responses have often been inadequate and left me exposed and vulnerable.

    The conclusion I am left with after all these years is that the missing component is that central government (and by extension Local Authorities) fail to take responsibility for providing affordable housing for people on low incomes. Consequently they then displace their moral obligations by placing punitive oppressive dictates upon people (sometimes called landlords). Somewhat ironically given that landlords are actually part of a solution rather than the misplaced attribution (by LBE) of being evil horned devils with a tail seeking to take advantage. How short-sighted and misplaced can LBE be?

    This is a call to arms for all decent law-abiding individuals whether landlords or tenants to resist this disproportionate and vindictive aggression by LBE. As a person who believes in natural justice and fair play I am happy to contribute towards help the campaign in any lawful means available to us. I welcome any comments and thoughts.

    Michael.

  24. Enfield Council have acted like Judge and Jury with their proposals. They are trying to sneak these new laws in without any formal consultation with those that will be grossly affected – landlords. This is yet another example of discriminatory policies being applied in the “Wild West” world of modern day politics

    1. Have just become a residential landlord in the area, I was unaware of this slight of hand by the council. Tenants will certainly feel the brunt of this farce if the judicial inquiry fails with deposit increase to cover all future losses. They are persecuting the many good RL becuase of the few that skimp around the law for financial gain. It’s also a means to bring in more funds for the council.

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