Barking & Dagenham Council's knuckles rapped for disrespecting First Tier Tribunal in selective licensing appeal

Judge Gavel With Justice Lawyers 2021 08 29 01 06 00 Utc

The landlord's appeal was against the decision of the council to issue her with a selective licence that lasted only 12 months on the basis that her property was previously rented out without a licence.

However, it transpired that the landlord had previously held a licence under the council's previous selective licensing scheme. She had applied for that licence in 2018, a property compliance visit was carried out at that time by council officers, the landlord passed the licensing Fit and Proper Person checks and the council confirmed that her licence was granted.

In February 2023 the landlord received a letter from the council requesting that she apply for a selective licence. She was unable to renew her previous licence online and so contacted the council who advised her to apply for a licence via the council's new licensing webpage. In May 2023 an appointment was made for a property compliance visit but the council then cancelled the visit on the day it was to take place and no other council officer arranged to visit the property. The 12 month licence complained of by the landlord, because it was not for a normal term of 5 years, was then granted.

In her appeal to the FTT the landlord alleged that Barking & Dagenham failed to carry out the correct checks into her previous licence and had also not given her the opportunity to "request a review of their decision and to let them know that my previous licence was still valid."

As it turned out, the previous licence had also been for only 12 months but the landlord had not been aware of this and the FTT accepted that she had never received a copy of that licence - a fact accepted because the only way the landlord had obtained a copy of that first licence was by submitting a Subject Access request to the council in furtherance of her evidence gathering for her appeal to the FTT. The tribunal also accepted that she had assumed, due to a genuine belief, that that first licence was for a normal term of 5years as there had been a property compliance visit which did not raise any issues with her property and she had passed the Fit and Proper Person requirements.

However, what irked the FTT was the fact that "Surprisingly, the respondents [the council] have chosen not to engage with this appeal, they did not comply with directions and did not attend the hearing on 26th October 2023. The applicant did attend and gave oral evidence .... The tribunal had the opportunity to see and hear the applicant and considered her to be a truthful witness. There was no opportunity to for any input from the respondents .... It is regrettable that an authority conducts itself in this way and it illustrates a level of disrespect to the tribunal that is unwelcome."

The FTT thus decided that the landlord was entitled to a longer licence and varied it to last for 3 years - a period arrived at, rather than a full 5 years, due to the need to err on the side of caution where the tribunal had heard evidence from the applicant only.

The rebuke of Barking and Dagenham Council by the FTT in these circumstances may seem mild but, shouldn't be taken as such. If the case had been heard in a higher court such a rebuke may have been more in line with a finding of contempt. Any council or its officers could be said to be treading a very fine line if they go down the route taken in this particular appeal. Showing disrespect to a court or tribunal is, effectively, showing disrespect to the justice system as a whole and having that 'eye of Sauron' swivel toward one in displeasure is not really a good position to be in for a regulator.

Looking for up to the minute updates on all selective licensing and PRS news? Follows us on Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Contact Request

Fields marked* are required