Landlord loses dispute over licensing and planning permission

A landlord has lost a dispute with his local housing authority over the licensing of two of his properties that had been renovated without planning permission.

The issue arose out of Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004, which provided for the selective licensing by local housing authorities of private-sector housing in particular areas.

In 2014, the local authority introduced a borough-wide selective-licensing scheme.

The landlord converted two properties into flats without obtaining planning permission. He then applied to the local authority for a Pt 3 licence for those flats. In the case of both properties, the local authority granted a licence for a period of one year only with the intention that during that period the planning status of the flats should be regularised.

The landlord appealed to the First-Tier Tribunal. In each case, the tribunal increased the period of the licence to five years, having concluded that the landlord’s compliance with planning requirements was irrelevant to the question of licensing.

The Upper Tier Tribunal has overturned that decision. It held that it was legitimate for a local housing authority to consider the planning status of a house when deciding whether to grant a licence and when deciding the terms of that licence.

In this case, the properties were in an area designated as experiencing a significant and persistent problem caused by anti-social behaviour, which some private-sector landlords were failing to take appropriate action to combat and which the designation would contribute to reducing.

In the light of that aim, it could not possibly be said that the issue of whether a house had been built or occupied in breach of planning control was irrelevant. Inappropriate or over-intensive uses of land, especially in a densely populated urban area, were an obvious manifestation of anti-social behaviour in themselves and created conditions in which anti-social behaviour was liable to be a significant problem.

The tribunal ruled that the licences for each of the appeal houses should continue for two months. That would allow the landlord to make new applications and the local authority to reach a decision on them based on up-to-date information.

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