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Landlords seek judicial review of licensing scheme

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A London council is facing a judicial review over its decision to introduce a borough-wide licensing scheme for private sector landlords.

LGC reported in April how Croydon LBC’s cabinet had agreed to introduce selective licensing just before the previous government rushed through legislation which made it harder for large-scale schemes to be introduced. Councils now require the communities secretary’s approval should proposals cover more than 20% of a borough’s geographical area, or affect more than 20% of privately rented homes in the local authority’s area.

Selective licensing schemes require private landlords to pay for a licence for each property that they let within a designated area. Those with previous convictions in relation to violence, fraud or abuse of tenants’ rights are barred, while enforcement officers can take action against poorly managed properties and incidents of antisocial behaviour.

A spokesman for Croydon LBC confirmed to LGC that an application for a judicial review had been filed against the council. Local reports claim the case has been brought by a group of anonymous landlords called the ‘Croydon Property Forum’.

A council spokesman said: “We are confident that our landlord licensing scheme is robust, lawful and will raise housing standards across the borough, and we’ll continue preparing to launch this scheme from 1 October.”

Last week, Croydon started accepting applications from landlords for a licence, with discounts for anyone who applies between now and the end of September. The council said the licensing scheme had been supported by about 70% of private sector tenants and local residents who responded to the public consultation. However, it acknowledged that “most landlords and letting agents” who responded to the consultation “were not in favour”.

Gavin Dick, local authority policy officer at the National Landlords Association, which has been in contact with the group of landlords in Croydon, told LGC he was waiting for a date to be set for an initial hearing. He said a judge would then decide if there was a case for a judicial review and, if there is, a formal hearing would likely take place later in the year.

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