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Council forced to cancel licensing scheme debate after legal challenge

Wednesday, 30th July 2014

Categories: Lettings

Author: Rosalind Renshaw

A legal challenge against a blanket licensing scheme has been mounted by a landlord.

The scheme has become a political hot potato in Enfield, north London.

Constantinos Regas has now applied for a judicial review of Labour-run Enfield Council’s decision to launch a mandatory licensing scheme covering every rented property in the borough.

His action was enough to cancel a debate scheduled to take place at a full council meeting last Wednesday night, to discuss a paper put forward by Tory councillors opposing the scheme.

Under the council’s scheme, every landlord will need to get a £500 licence lasting five years for each property.

Enfield argues that licensing is required to cut anti-social behaviour, tackle rogue landlords, raise standards and reduce overcrowding.

The scheme was given final approval by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee where a group of landlords made their protests after a petition signed by nearly 2,000 people.

Conservative opposition leader Cllr Terry Neville, who is against the scheme, said he was disappointed no debate took place last week.

He said: “Although I understand the legal reasons given by the council’s lawyers for postponing this debate, I do not agree that they are right.

“[We believe] that the decision to create a landlord licensing scheme was unnecessary due to existing and new measures being put into place by the Conservative-led government to tackle the small minority of rogue landlords.

“The standard of private rented homes is a very big issue as the number of rented properties has increased in recent years in our borough, and it is our belief that the new measures being introduced by the Government, together with the diligent application of the existing law by the council against the minority of bad landlords, would be more effective in tackling the problem.

“I am keen therefore to debate this matter in the near future.”

The opposition agreed to adjourn the debate until a decision has been made on the challenge for a judicial review.

A council spokesman said: “Enfield Council approved the additional selective licensing scheme on April 9. This decision was affirmed on April 30 by the overview and scrutiny committee.

“The scheme has been introduced to reduce anti-social behaviour in the borough.

“The opposition priority paper titled ‘Tackling abuse in the private rented sector’ was submitted by the Opposition for July’s full council meeting before the judicial review claim was issued.

“Following Enfield Council’s receipt of the judicial review claim, the opposition agreed at full council on July 16 to adjourn their paper until the judicial review is disposed of.

“Enfield Council is vigorously defending the judicial review. It would be prejudicial to disclose the details of the council’s defence at this stage.”

It is understood that Mr Regas is seeking to challenge the council’s evidence base behind its decision, the legitimacy of the consultation process, and whether the terms and conditions of the licences are reasonable.