Industry news

Court ruling questions councils’ use of PRS licensing schemes

The Court of Appeal has ruled that councils cannot use selective licensing conditions to impose new standards on private rented homes, raising question marks over how tenants’ lives are safeguarded. The case saw Paul Brown, an Accrington

landlord, challenge Hyndburn Borough Council over its use of a selective licensing scheme in certain parts of the borough to force the installation of carbon monoxide detectors and also to carry out electrical safety checks and implement their findings. Brown was supported in his action by the Residential Landlords Association. Brown carried out both of these

requirements, but he argued that imposing such standards through licensing schemes went beyond the powers available to local authorities. The Court agreed with Brown and the RLA

that rather than relying on licensing schemes which only cover certain properties, issues like electrical and gas safety were best addressed by councils using powers they already have under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System. The HHSRS is a risk-based evaluation tool

used to identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings. It applies to all privately 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.

The RLA Policy Adviser, Richard Jones,

said: “This case was not about trying to stop councils from imposing requirements. It was about ensuring they use the proper processes that already exist. This 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.”

Contraction of HA sector continues apace

social housing sector continues, although one planned partnership fell at a late hurdle. Shareholders of Notting Hill and Genesis


Housing Association voted in favour of a 64,000- home merger at separate meetings, despite vocal opposition from some residents, councillors and a former board chairman. The merger was originally agreed in principle in

July 2017, with Kate Davies, chief executive designate of the new organisation, saying she was planning to deliver £20m of efficiency savings and 400 extra homes a year. A spokesperson for Genesis said: “We believe the

merged organisation will be able to raise customer service standards even higher, contribute better to tackling the housing crisis by delivering more affordable homes and have more influence with local, regional and national government.” Not far behind them in size terms will be the

result of a partnership deal between Metropolitan and Thames Valley Housing, with Geeta Nanda, named as the chief executive designate of the future organisation. Ms Nanda was chief executive of TVH until late last year, when she left to join Metropolitan. Coincidentally when she was at TVH, Ms Nanda led the organisation into merger talks with Genesis, which fell through at the last minute. Between them Metropolitan and TVH manage

more than 57,000 homes in London, the South East, the East Midlands and the East of England. One aim for the partnership is to get overall development up to 2,000 homes a year. They also hope to improve services for existing residents, support investment in local communities and become a financially

10 | HMM March 2018 |

everal big mergers of housing associations took important steps forward as the contraction of independent providers in the

stronger group. Ms Nanda said: “Metropolitan and Thames

Valley Housing are two like-minded organisations with complementary strengths. We both have strong track records of investing in communities and are excited by the potential to reach more people and change more lives for the better. Together, we will be stronger and more resilient, with the capacity to do much more.” Meanwhile up in Merseyside, news has emerged

that Torus and Liverpool Mutual Homes have opened talks about a merger, to create a 38,000 home landlord with 1,400 staff and a turnover of almost £190m, making it one of the biggest housing associations in the north west. Talks are expected to progress over the next few months. Over in East Anglia talks over a new 28,000

homes partnership between the Flagship Group and Victory Housing Trust have begun. If the merger goes ahead the new organisation would probably be the biggest social landlord in the region with a turnover close to £150m and more than 900 staff. Plans to develop 10,000 new homes over the next decade are driving the agenda. They will hope to complete matters more

smoothly than proved the case with the collapsed merger of A2 Dominion Housing and the Radian Group – who own 57,000 homes across London and the South of England. They announced their planned merger to the

stock market late last year, but talks did not progress well and in a joint statement, they said they have “mutually agreed that at this stage it would be preferable to continue to deliver their respective strategic plans and transformation programmes independently”. A planned consultation with residents will now no longer go ahead.

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