A hearing date has been announced when Humber Landlords Association (HLA) will face Hull City Council in the High Court in Leeds on 12 February 2019.
The case concerns Hull City Council’s proposal for a new enforcement policy for private rented housing in the City. In line with national guidelines, the current policy requires informal action to be taken, unless the situation is serious.
Flying in the face of these national guidelines, the Council wants to change this and abandon informal action, even in the case of minor defects. HLA has been given permission to judicially review the new policy. This means a High Court Judge will consider whether the new policy is unlawful.
The new policy would mean that the Council would levy unfair charges on private landlords, up to 2 or 3 times the cost of the work involved. These charges could be applied even where tenants have not told the landlord that work is required. Often repairs are needed without warning, for example where a boiler breaks down, but this could mean that the landlord receives an unjustified bill from the Council.
Danny Gough is Chairman of the HLA. He says:
“The reasons given by the Council for this change, which ignores national guidance applicable to all types of enforcement action by Councils, is to protect tenants from eviction in retaliation for them requesting repairs. The Council produced no evidence to justify their claim that this is a problem in Hull. They do not even keep records of cases where this happens. In any case, HLA told the Council that if there are real concerns in a particular case that a landlord might evict a tenant, then taking formal enforcement action is appropriate. The Council complained also that not all landlords are responding to the informal process. Again HLA had said to the Council that in those cases they should get on with it and take formal action.”
This case raises important national issues and HLA is backed by two major national landlords associations, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association.
Richard Jones, Consultant at Bury Walkers Solicitors advises on residential landlord and tenant matters. He acts for landlords’ associations and landlords in the private rented sector and will represent the HLA in the High Court. He says:
“Penalising responsible landlords is bad practice on the part of the Council. Trying to generate a fee income hurts the tenants of responsible landlords. Inevitably the cost is passed on as part of the rent or money that will now have to go to the Council, could be spent on improving properties in the City.”
Danny Gough continues:
“We had hoped that Hull City Council would abandon their proposal as the vast majority of tenants have responsible landlords who will be forced to pass on increased costs. It will cost the Council Tax payer who will foot the legal bill on the Council’s behalf if the Court overturns their policy. Either way, the general public in Hull is losing out. Our legal team is confident about our prospects, particularly as the policy goes against clear Government guidance. The Council is acting contrary to long-standing national policy.”
“Our lawyers will argue that existing national enforcement guidance is sufficient and the Council failed to justify why they are departing from it.”
“Our members already adhere to a strict code of conduct requiring them to look after tenants and take care of the houses they occupy.”
“We do not believe that any of our member landlords either allow their tenants to live in sub-standard properties and, importantly, do not threaten to evict should they complain about the conditions of their properties.”
“Perhaps Hull City Council would be better looking at its own portfolio. I see a lot of stories on social media and elsewhere about tenants of Council owned properties living in poor conditions. The Council should get its own house in order without wasting money on fighting this Court case.”