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Councils May Face HMO Licence Claims After Recent Judgement

October 21, 2013

A recent judgement at Bristol Magistrate’s Court has left Local Authorities with the possibility of claims being made for the return of HMO licence fees in certain dwellings. District Judge Zara ruled in favour of Digs (Bristol) Limited after they claimed the council’s policy was unlawful in respect of a maisonette in St John Street, Bristol. The property on the upper two floors of a two story building was accessed by a private staircase leading from the ground floor. During the hearing the landlords didn?t dispute that it was being used as a HMO as at the time it was occupied by five individuals living separately.

The main case for the council revolved around the definition of a storey for the purposes of Article 3(2) of the Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Descriptions) (England) Order 2006 which requires three storey premises to be licensed. Bristol City Council believed that the layout at the premises was such that the ground floor hallway and first floor landing associated with the maisonette constituted a storey, thus making the premises liable to licensing. In dismissing the council’s claims the judge however ruled that the areas concerned only formed part of a storey. The ruling means that Local Authorities that have two storey maisonettes with private means of access within their areas may now face similar claims. Bristol City Council are reviewing the decision in light of a number of previous prosecutions they have taken on similar properties which had not applied for HMO licenses. ??

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