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:
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.
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.
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.
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.