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Tribunal ruling on planning status in property decisions

Words: Huw Morris

A tribunal has ruled that a London borough can consider the planning status of property when determining applications for a private rented property licence.

The case related to applications made for licences in 2015 where the landlord had converted properties into flats without the required planning permission.

The properties in question were 682-684 High Road, Leytonstone, which was a warehouse converted into six flats; and 34 Eldon Road, Walthamstow, a terraced house subdivided into six self-contained flats. Both properties are owned by Mohammed Afzal Khan.

In both cases, Waltham Forest Council proposed to only issue a one-year property licence to allow time for the planning issues to be resolved. Property licences are usually issued for a full-term of up to five years unless the council decides they should be issued for a shorter time period.

Khan appealed this decision at a First-Tier Tribunal for both properties, and in both cases the periods of the licences were increased to five years, on the basis that compliance with planning requirements was not relevant to licensing.

But the council argued that breaches of planning regulations were relevant to property licensing, so appealed to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). 

The tribunal has now ruled that planning matters could properly be taken into account in determining a licence application. It said that inappropriate or over-intensive uses of land, especially in a densely populated urban area, are an obvious example of antisocial behaviour. 

The tribunal also ruled that when properties are developed without planning consent, “important safeguards against antisocial behaviour will have been evaded”, and therefore the areas of planning control and licensing do overlap.

Current licences on the properties should continue until 12 June 2017, giving Khan time to make new applications. The council can then use all available evidence to make a decision in relation to the new licence applications.

Waltham Forest cabinet member for housing Khevyn Limbajee said: “This is an important decision and we are pleased that the Upper Tribunal has ruled in our favour. The judgement makes a clear link between breaches of planning conditions and antisocial behaviour, which supports our decision to issue licences for a shorter time period. 

“Where planning laws have been flouted, the grant of a reduced licence period properly puts the onus on the landlord to resolve these breaches at their own expense.”

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