Local councils have had a strict limit applied to the conditions they can add to a selective licence for private rented homes after the Court of Appeal upheld a legal challenge from a landlord.

Property investor Paul Brown complained Hyndburn Council was overstepping selective licensing powers by demanding landlords should improve their homes by providing extra equipment.

As part of the licensing process, the council demanded Brown should:

  • Provide and maintain a carbon monoxide detector and explain to tenants how to work the device if his properties had a gas supply
  • Ensure each of his properties was covered by a valid electrical certificate and that any defect should be repaired within 38 days.

Brown argued that while his rental homes met the conditions, the council had no power to make him do so as part of his selective licences.

He appealed to the First-Tier Tribunal, which agreed with him. The council then appealed to the Upper Tribunal, which rejected the landlord’s arguments. Brown then took the case to the Court of Appeal, which ruled the First Tier Tribunal decision should stand.

The case rested on the definition of managing the property under Section 90 of the Housing Act 2004, which gives councils the authority to include licensing conditions.

The Appeal Court held ‘management’ related to the operation of the house and tenancy and not the condition of the property.

The court told the council that other powers were available for dealing with defects – such as regulations calling for carbon monoxide alarms to be installed when a home as an appliance burning solid fuel.

Due to the legal standing of the Court of Appeal, the decision in this case is binding on any lower court.

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