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14.08.15

Landlords’ legal bid against Croydon’s licensing scheme fails

Croydon Council’s plan to introduce a controversial borough-wide licensing scheme for private landlords, costing hundreds of pounds per property, will go ahead after a legal challenge against it failed in the High Court. 

The local authority faced a judicial review after Croydon Property Forum, an anonymous group of landlords, brought the case against the council. 

During a hearing on 4 August, it had been argued that Croydon Council approved the scheme in March without taking “reasonable steps” to consult. 

But yesterday Judge Sir Stephen Silber QC refused Croydon Property Forum’s application for a judicial review. 

The London Borough approved its scheme just before the previous government passed legislation – which came into effect on 1 April – that made it harder for councils to introduce large schemes. 

Under the new legislation, councils now require government permission for licenses affecting more than 20% of private housing within their boundaries. 

But because the scheme was approved in March, it will go live on 1 October. It means that from this date, any private landlord caught renting out a property without a licence will face fines of up to £20,000, while anyone breaking licence conditions can be prosecuted and fined up to £5,000. 

Available since 1 July, the licence was offered at a discounted price of £350. This goes up to £750 per private rented property when the borough-wide scheme goes live on 1 October. 

Croydon Council says there are around 30,000 private rented properties in the borough, and the local authority developed the scheme to raise housing standards and tackle dodgy landlords who undercut their competitors on quality and price. 

Cllr Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, said: “We always maintained that our landlord licensing scheme was robust and lawful, so we’re very pleased to hear the High Court has found in our favour. 

“This scheme is important because raising housing standards and tackling antisocial behaviour is crucial to making Croydon a better place to live. 

“We’ll continue to prepare for the licence’s launch on 1 October, and urge any landlords who haven’t yet taken advantage of our early bird discount fee to join the thousand who have.” 

Following the High Court’s decision, a Croydon Property Forum spokesperson said: “The judge, Sir Stephen Silber, found we had a good reason to argue against Croydon Council’s designation, but found they had consulted adequately and dismissed our claim on that basis. Our barristers disagree and have advised we have good grounds to appeal. 

“If we are to appeal, we still need to raise funds!”

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