2014 04 Housing

Thursday 1 May 2014

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Bristol City Council v Digs Ltd [2014] EWHC 869 (Admin) (Burnett J): meaning of “storey” in the context of the HMO legislation. Bristol CC sought to prosecute Digs Ltd on the basis that they had failed to obtain a licence for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) in respect of one of their properties. The property in question consisted of a maisonette located on the second and third floor of a five floor house (comprising four floors above ground and a basement). The stairs and internal lobby which led up to the property formed part of the demise. On this basis Bristol’s case was that the property was a four storey building requiring a licence by virtue of s55 of the Housing Act 2004 and the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006. Digs’ case was that the property was a two storey maisonette. DJ Zara sitting in the Bristol Magistrates’ Court dismissed the summons. Bristol appealed by way of case stated. Burnett J dismissed the appeal. As a general principle, stairs between floors cannot in themselves be storeys. And on the particular facts of this case the lobby and landing associated with the private staircase from the ground floor to the property were not storeys either. Click here for the judgment.

R (Tummond) v Reading County Court [2014] EWHC 1039 (Admin) (Hamblen J): validity of s21 notice. Mr Tummond was an assured shorthold tenant. His tenancy agreement provided for the payment of a deposit which, according to the agreement, would be placed by the landlord in an authorised scheme. A s21 notice was served at the outset of the tenancy following which the deposit was paid to the landlord. The deposit was then placed in an authorised scheme less than a fortnight later. At the end of the fixed term the landlord sought possession. A possession order was made at first instance and a warrant obtained. Mr Tummond made an application to set-aside the order. This was refused and permission to appeal was refused. Mr Tummond sought judicial review of this refusal arguing that the s21 notice was not valid since it was served at a time when the deposit was not held in accordance with an authorised scheme. Hamblen J dismissed the claim. The case did not reach the exceptional standard required for the court to entertain a judicial review of a County Court’s refusal of permission, see R (Sivasubramaniam) v Wandsworth County Court [2002] EWCA Civ 1738, [2003] 1 WLR 475. In the alternative, Hamblen J expressed the view that the s21 notice was valid in any event since the landlord had intended, and was obliged by the tenancy agreement, to protect the deposit and he had duly done so within 30 days. Note: this is a curious decision and the judge’s comments on the validity of the notice, which were obiter, should perhaps be treated with some caution. The judge’s reasoning, particularly in relation to the relevance of the landlord’s intent in deciding whether the requirements of ss213-215 Housing Act 2004 have been met, is not at all easy to follow. Click here for the judgment.

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