Tribunal - new ruling given to council - private landlords

By Suzi Muston in Politics

An Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) hearing has ruled that Waltham Forest Council can consider the planning status of a property when determining an application for a Private Rented Property Licence.

The case related to applications made for licences in 2015 where the landlord had converted properties into flats without the required planning permission.

The properties in question were 682-684 High Road, Leytonstone, which was a warehouse converted into six flats; and 34 Eldon Road, Walthamstow, a terraced house subdivided into six self-contained flats. Both properties are owned by Mr Mohammed Afzal Khan.

In both cases the council proposed to only issue a one-year property licence to allow time for the planning issues to be resolved.

Property licences are usually issued for a full-term of up to five years unless the council decides they should be issued for a shorter time period.

Mr Khan appealed this decision at First-Tier Tribunal for both properties, and in both cases the periods of the licences were increased to five years, on the basis that compliance with planning requirements was not relevant to licensing.

The council maintained its belief that breaches of planning regulations were relevant to property licensing, so appealed the decision to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

The case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice and a judgment given on April 13 2017

After reviewing the evidence, the Judge ruled that planning matters could properly be taken into account in determining a licence application and observed that inappropriate or over-intensive uses of land, especially in a densely populated urban area, are an obvious example of anti-social behaviour.

He then went on to say that, when properties are developed without planning consent, ‘important safeguards against anti-social behaviour will have been evaded’, and therefore the areas of planning control and licensing do overlap.

The Judge ruled that the current licences on the properties should continue until June 12 2017, giving Mr Khan sufficient time to make new applications.

ZThe council can then use all available evidence to make a decision in relation to the new licence applications.

Cllr Khevyn Limbajee, cabinet member for housing said: “This is an important decision and we are pleased that the Upper Tribunal has ruled in our favour. The judgement makes a clear link between breaches of planning conditions and anti-social behaviour, which supports our decision to issue licences for a shorter time period. Where planning laws have been flouted, the grant of a reduced licence period properly puts the onus on the landlord to resolve these breaches at their own expense.

“Reducing anti-social behaviour is a key aim of Waltham Forest’s landlord licensing scheme and we are already seeing the positive effect it is having locally. The majority of our landlords operate responsibly, but I do want to emphasise that where necessary, we will take action to ensure they are compliant with the scheme and are providing good quality accommodation for their tenants.”

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