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In a decision of huge importance to residential landlords and the public in general, the Court of Appeal has considered the extent to which local authorities can demand improvements, or control the condition and contents, of private rented homes.
A council had, pursuant to Section 80 of the Housing Act 2004, created selective licensing areas in which homes could only be rented out if a licence authorising such occupation had been obtained. In purported exercise of its powers under Section 90 of the Act, it had sought to attach certain conditions to such licenses.
Those conditions required private landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors and to ensure that their premises were covered by valid electrical installation condition reports. One affected landlord launched proceedings on the basis that the council had no power to impose those conditions, breach of which could be visited by criminal sanctions. His arguments were upheld by the First-tier Tribunal (FTT), but that decision was subsequently reversed by the Upper Tribunal.
In ruling on the landlord’s challenge to the latter ruling, the Court noted that many other local authorities had adopted similar regimes and that the issues raised were of general public importance. In upholding the appeal, the Court found that the conditions purportedly imposed went beyond regulating the management, use or occupation of the relevant premises. On its true interpretation, Section 90 did not empower the council either to require upgrading of private rented properties or to dictate what facilities and equipment should be available within them.