Private Landlords cannot be held responsible for preventing the anti-social behaviour of their tenants, the High Court in Belfast has ruled.
The ruling by Mr Justice Girvan last week follows a judicial review sought by the National Landlord’s Association(NLA) of Northern Ireland. Girvan overturned a law introduced by the Government’s Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) in 2003, which placed responsibility on landlords for the behaviour of their tenants and guests and reqeuired them to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Landlords had feared that following successful implementation of the measure in Northern Ireland it would be extended to the rest of the UK.
David Salusbury, chairman of the NLA, says dealing with anti-social behaviour is the responsbility of the police and the law courts not buy-to-let landlords. He says: “The suggestion that landlords should be required to operate what would be effectively a private police force to supervise the behaviour of tenants and their guests outside the rented premises was quite unacceptable and iniquitous.”
The NIHE introduced the obligation on landlords to monitor their tenant’s behaviour as part of a new registration scheme covering houses in multiple-occupatio(HMO), the definition of which was changed to include almost any household comprising more than one unrelated individual. The scheme contained what are described as "special control provisions" requiring landlords to prevent the behaviour of the household’s residents from adversely affecting the amenity or character of a given area.
John Socha, vice chairman of the NLA, says the NIHE is itself an owner of social housing in Northern Ireland but that the law was framed in such a way that it was specifically excluded from the new rules. ”They expected the private landlord to accept this policing role, but the NIHE, effectively a branch of Government would not accept it themselves in respect of their own tenants. That’s quite outrageous.”
Justice Girvan’s judgment focused on the nature of the measure which he has ruled failed to take account of landlords' right under the European Convention on Human Rights, infringing on their rights with regards to the properties they own.
Girvan ruled the scheme produced a "wholly disproportionate impact" on certain households and agreed with the NLA’s view suggesting it was "a burdensome and unnecessary regulation that had an adverse effect on the private rental sector discouraging investment by landlords".
Girvan adds the scheme "may have an undesirable and unintended impact of reducing the number of reducing the number of HMOs available to provide accommodation for persons in need of it."
Salusbury has claimed a victory for the NLA and its partner organisations by stating the result of the ruling will mean the Government hesitates before attempting to introduce a similar piece of legislation to the rest of the UK.
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