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Landlord Association launch legal challenge to Hull City Council’s housing enforcement policy

Friday, August 31, 2018 - Humber Landlords Association

In a case that could have implications for local authorities across the country, the Humber Landlords’ Association (HLA) is taking Hull City Council to the High Court to challenge their new private sector housing enforcement policy. It is understood the legal challenge is being supported by the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association.

According to the HLA, Hull City Council is the only authority in the country to implement a policy scrapping informal interventions to resolve minor issues quickly and easily. Instead, it is understood that in the event of a tenant complaint, the council will proceed directly to the service of an Improvement Notice and charge a fee of around £250 unless the landlord is accredited through the council's accreditation scheme.

In Hull’s Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy 2018 – 2022, it states:

Take formal enforcement action – This action will normally be the first course of action following the inspection unless the property is accredited”.

The HLA believe the council's new policy will affect landlords’ operations and could spark a homeless crisis through repossessions and significant rent increases in any of Hull’s twenty-six thousand rental properties.

Danny Gough, Chair of the Humber Landlords’ Association said:

The HLA is concerned for tenants who risk losing their homes due to this policy change set out in Hull City Council’s proposal.

The most concerning aspect is at least sixty-five per cent of landlords in Hull are governed by the banks with mortgages on their properties. Many of these banks are looking for any reason to increase lending rates and to protect their assets. Receiving a formal notice could trigger concern for the banks who can, in-turn recall the loans, forcing landlords to sell their property portfolio, making tenants homeless.

Following discussions, Hull City Council is refusing to recognise any other local or national accreditation scheme. Instead offering landlords a way to avoid formal enforcement notices by joining an exclusive Council-run accreditation scheme called HALS. It requires landlords to pay an annual fee and they must also enhance safety measures in their rental properties beyond the legally required standard - in-line with Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). This will include: full re-wiring of older properties, mains powered smoke alarms, escape windows and fire protection between each floor. Not only will this cause major upheaval for tenants living in the properties while improvements are carried out, it will also create costs starting at £2,000 per property, which could increase rents.

The HLA fully understands that Hull City Council aims to protect tenancies but it already has powers to prosecute rogue landlords and agrees that any landlord failing to manage their property correctly should be dealt with accordingly.

We feel that Hull City Council is simply looking to raise revenue rather than to protect the tenants and we have sent several freedom of information requests asking about this policy change. Unfortunately to date, no sensible reason has been supplied.

The HLA is urging Hull City Council to allow other professional organisations to be allowed the same exception as the landlord registered under the HALS scheme, but our request has been denied. This means professional landlords who provide good quality properties that are safe, legal and decent will be treated in the same way as the small minority of rogue landlords.

According to the HLA, Judicial Review proceedings have now been filed with the High Court and a hearing is expected to take place in due course. London Property Licensing will be watching further developments with interest.

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