Councils Warned to Update Selective Licensing Demands

Councils have been warned that some conditions imposed under their selective licensing schemes for landlords may be breaking the law. 

The Ministry of Housing issued the alert in the latest edition of the Private Rented Sector newsletter. 

The ministry’s housing licensing team highlighted the Brown v Hyndburn Borough Council case.

“The case is about the conditions that can be imposed in selective licensing schemes, as it is likely to have an impact on your licensing work. You may wish to consider reviewing your licensing conditions in light of this important decision,” says the newsletter.

An attached document explains the Court of Appeal ruled that councils can only make selective licensing conditions that relate to the ‘management, use or occupation’ of a rented home - which means only conditions impacting what happens at and to the property are allowed.

“The conditions cannot extend to improving or upgrading houses or installing new facilities or equipment,” said the newsletter.

Landlord Paul Brown objected to Hyndburn Council's demands that he supply carbon monoxide detectors and an Electrical Installation Condition Report as a condition of his selective licence, claiming the council had no power to make such demands. 

He won a First-Tier Tribunal case overturned by the Upper Tribunal, but the decision was reinstated at the Court of Appeal last year. 

Around 50 councils in England run selective licensing schemes.

“The Court of Appeal has made it clear that, as the law currently stands, any condition directed to the condition and content of a property, or the provision or maintenance of facilities and equipment within it, rather than its management, use and occupation, will be unlawful,” says the ministry newsletter. 

“A local authority may only lawfully tie a particular condition properly to the management, use and occupation in relation if it specifically relates to operational matters - what happens at and to the property.”

View Related Handbook Page

Licensing of Private Rented Properties

The Housing Act 2004 introduced licensing of private rented premises. It is compulsory to license larger, higher-risk dwellings, but local authorities are also able to license other types of rented premises, including other lower-risk HMOs and individual houses and flats, if they can establish that other avenues for tackling problems in these properties have been exhausted.