William Eichler 21 April 2017

Tribunal rules planning status relevant when determining renting license applications

A tribunal hearing has ruled that a council can consider the planning status of a property when determining an application for a renting license.

A ruling from the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) said Waltham Forest Council is able to consider the planning status of a property when deciding on an application for a Private Rented Property Licence.

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

In both cases the council proposed to only issue a one-year property licence — rather than the usual full-term of up to five years — to allow time for the planning issues to be resolved.

The landlord appealed the council’s 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.

Waltham Forest Council appealed this ruling at the Upper Tribunal, which found in the council’s favour.

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 example of anti-social behaviour.

He added 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 12 June 2017, giving the landlord sufficient time to make new applications. The council can then use all available evidence to make a decision in relation to the new licence applications.

‘This is an important decision and we are pleased that the Upper Tribunal has ruled in our favour,’ said Cllr Khevyn Limbajee, cabinet member for housing.

‘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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