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terraced housing in a suburban street

Can councils insist on improvements to privately rented properties?

30th May 2018 by Rob Kelly

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In a decision of great significance to residential landlords, the Court of Appeal has given guidance about the scope of local authority powers in relation to the licence conditions that may be included within licences of houses in areas of selective licensing under Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004.  Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004 permits local authorities to designate their areas, or parts of them, as areas of selective licensing if they are satisfied that certain criteria are met.  In an area of selective licensing, private houses let as separate homes must be licensed and the authority may include in a licence “…such conditions as [they] consider appropriate for regulating the management, use or occupation of the house concerned”.

In Brown v Hyndburn Borough Council [2018] WLR(D) 115, the local authority had included two licence conditions in all their Part 3 licences requiring private landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors and to ensure that their premises were covered by a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report.

One affected landlord’s properties all complied with these particular conditions but his concern at the principle of an authority, by means of licence conditions, seeking to require landlords to upgrade or improve their properties and/or to provide completely new equipment and facilities, prompted him to commence proceedings to challenge the authority by way of an appeal against both conditions.  The First-tier Tribunal agreed with him that the council had no power to include either condition.  On the authority’s appeal, the Upper Tribunal disagreed and reinserted both conditions into the licence.  The landlord then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal upheld the landlord’s appeal.  The conditions went beyond regulating the management, use or occupation of relevant premises, and the Housing Act 2004 did not empower councils either to require upgrading of private rented properties or to dictate the facilities and equipment that should be available within them.

If you would like further information about this article please contact Mark Timberlake or Rob Kelly.

This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest.  The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice, is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered, and should not be relied on as such.  Legal advice should be sought about your specific circumstances before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed.
Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

Rob Kelly

Senior Associate — Dispute Resolution

Direct dial: 01202 377871

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Rob Kelly
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    Paul Jeffcoate - Contentious Probate Client

  • “I have had the pleasure of working with several members of the team at Laceys regularly over a period of years. I found Rob Kelly in particular, who worked on a successful litigation case for me over a period of several years to be outstanding in all aspects of the work he undertook, and the manner in which he did it. I now consider him a friend. I would not - and have not - hesitated to recommend Laceys to my family and friends, and continue to use them for all legal matters.”

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Rob practices in two main, complimentary areas of work – contentious wills, probate and trust disputes, and property disputes.

Contentious wills, probate and trusts

More than half of Rob’s time is spent dealing with the contentious aspects of wills, probate and trusts, an area in which he has practiced continuously for over 20 years.  He advises and acts in disputes relating to wills and inheritance, trusts, the duties of trustees and personal representatives, and the administration of estate.

Rob’s practice embraces:

  • Personal representative and trustee disputes (including personal representative and trustee disagreements, removals / substitutions and alleged misconduct)
  • Disappointed beneficiary claims
  • Will disputes (where the validity of a will is challenged on the grounds of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and approval of the contents of a will, and fraudulent calumny)
  • Financial provision claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Proprietary estoppel claims
  • Disputes about the proper construction, and rectification, of wills
  • Caveats
  • Professional liability claims arising from the preparation of wills and trusts and the administration of estates

He has mediated (either as appointed mediator or as a representative) dozens of disputes involving contentious wills and probate issues.

Property disputes

The other side of Rob’s practice is contentious property work.  This embraces:

  • Residential and commercial landlord and tenant disputes
  • Disrepairs
  • Repairing covenants
  • Possession claims
  • Lease termination and lease forfeiture
  • Dilapidations
  • Service charge disputes
  • Interpretation and enforcement of leasehold covenants

Rob’s style is a mix of listening, asking (tough) questions, diplomacy and reality testing. He’s interested, flexible, and pragmatic. He offers a common sense, realistic approach to assist his clients in searching for solutions to their disputes and brings straight talking and integrity to his work.

Rob is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.  He holds an LLB (Hons) degree in law.  He successfully completed training as a mediator under the ADR Chambers / Harvard Law Project Scheme in June 2006, was one of the first mediators to have been appointed an IMI Certified Mediation Advocate in the UK with a commercial practice, and is a member of the Civil Mediation Council.

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