Licensing of HMOs: license conditions may specify who can occupy property

Friday 26 May 2017

Nottingham City Council v Parr [2017] EWCA Civ 188, 29 March 2017

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Nottingham City Council v Parr [2017] EWCA Civ 188, 29 March 2017

The Respondents, Dominic Parr and Trevor Parr Associates Limited, owned two houses in multiple occupation in Nottingham which they let to students. Both properties had very small attic bedrooms. The Respondents applied to the Appellant, Nottingham City Council, for HMO licences in respect of the properties. The licences were granted subject to a prohibition, imposed pursuant to s67 Housing Act 2004, on using the attic bedrooms for sleeping owing to their size.

The Respondents appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) against the imposition of the conditions. The FTT allowed both appeals, taking the view that there was enough shared space in the properties (in the kitchen, living room etc.) to counter-balance the small size of the attic bedrooms and that since the occupiers were students they should be able to live "cohesively" making appropriate use of the shared space. With that in mind, the FTT substituted an alternative condition of its own, namely that:

"The second floor front bedroom may only be used for sleeping accommodation by a person engaged in full-time education and who resides in the dwelling for a maximum period of 10 calendar months over a period of one year."

Nottingham appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that for the purposes of the HMO licensing regime under the Housing Act 2004 it was the physical characteristics of the property in question and not the personal characteristics of the potential occupiers that was relevant. The condition imposed by the FTT was therefore outside the ambit of s67 Housing Act 2004. The condition also frustrated the purposes of the Act as it had the effect of allowing students to live in sub-standard accommodation. In addition, it was argued that the condition would not achieve its intended purpose and was incapable of effective policing and was therefore irrational.

The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal. There was nothing intrinsically inimical to the regime governing HMOs under the Housing Act 2004, in imposing conditions relating to the general characteristics and activities of an occupier. The condition was capable of enforcement and was not irrational.

Click here for the judgment.




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