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Landlords bring JR proceedings over Thanet selective licensing scheme

A landlords association has brought judicial review proceedings against the first local authority in the country to use new selective licensing powers.

Thanet District Council brought in selective licensing in the Cliftonville West and Margate Central wards from 21 April in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour, improve the quality of accommodation and help regeneration.

Under the scheme, every residential premises which is privately let to one or more tenants – subject to certain exemptions – must be licensed if it is within the designated  area. The relevant fee must also be paid.

The Southern Landlords Association (SLA) has expressed concern at the risk of landlords losing their licences if tenants fail to comply with their rules.

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The association said it had “reluctantly” decided to resort to legal action over Thanet’s move, which it suggested was “not only totally inappropriate, but also illegal”.

The SLA claimed that it had not been proven that the anti-social behaviour in the areas in question was solely or even partly due to mismanagement by landlords.

“Even if it were to be due to tenants, by law landlords are very limited in what they can do to control other people’s behaviour, and they certainly cannot control people outside of the rented property, for example in public places,” the association said. “This is the job of the council and the Police.”

The SLA also warned that the scheme could effectively blight the area. “Already some mortgage companies are saying that they will not lend on properties in the designated area; in one case heard of recently, lenders are even reluctant to continue to lend on properties already subject to a facility due for renewal in a couple of years,” it said.

The association also warned of a potential negative impact on tenants. “If for some reason they are evicted from a licensed property there is a tendency to assume they are especially bad, as ‘even a licensed property won’t take them’,” it claimed. “In short, everyone loses.”

A Thanet DC spokeswoman said: "Thanet District Council is satisfied with the legality of the decision to implement a selective licensing in parts of Cliftonville and Margate.

She added: “The scheme was implemented on Thursday 21 April 2011 and the council intends to contest the application for judicial review.”

Philip Hoult

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