Councils cannot use selective licensing conditions to impose new standards on private rented homes, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
The ruling comes following a case involving Paul Brown, a landlord in Accrington, who challenged Hyndburn Council after it tried to use its selective licensing scheme in certain areas of the borough to force the installation of carbon monoxide detectors.
The council also tried to make landlords carry out electrical safety checks and implement their findings.
Brown was supported in the case by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
He carried out both of the requirements but argued that imposing such standards through licensing schemes went beyond the powers available to local authorities.
The Court of Appeal agreed with Brown.
Instead, the Court, Brown and the RLA argued that rather than relying on licensing schemes which only cover certain properties, electrical and gas safety issues are best addressed by councils using the “extensive powers” they already have under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
HHSRS applies to all private rented homes, whether they require a licence or not.
The RLA is calling for the guidance associated with the HHSRS, which was last published in 2006, to be updated urgently to reflect considerable changes in the sector since then.
RLA policy adviser Richard Jones said: “This case was not about trying to stop councils from imposing requirements.
“It was about how they go about this ensuring that they use the proper processes which already exist.
“Today’s judgement is a reminder that councils already have extensive powers to deal with properties found to be unsafe and they must act in a legal manner.”