UK SC | Direction restricting period of accommodation in HMO to 10 months in a year for students held irrational

United Kingdom Supreme Court: A Five Judge Bench comprising of Lady Hale, President, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lady Black and Lord Lloyd-Jones unanimously dismissed the appeal whereby the conditions for occupation under Section 64 of the Housing Act, 2004 were revised.

The 2004 Act calls for licensing the houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) by the local housing authority and it grants the application under Section 64 of the 2004 Act if it is satisfied that it fulfills the requisite requirements. The above said conditions were brought before the court which outlines the Section 67 of the 2004 Act and allows for occupation by many individuals which shall not be more than maximum number of households or persons set by the authority. Directions were issued on the operation of the licensing system, which provides for minimum space provision in the case of bedrooms in single occupation in HMOs to be eight square metres allowing a degree of flexibility if additional other features were present. Further, a license was issued which placed an embargo upon both the HMOs in question for use of the attic bedroom for sleeping.

The Respondents appealed against the imposition of the conditions. The Tribunal deleted the conditions and substituted a condition that the attic bedroom may only be used for sleeping accommodation by a full-time student for a maximum of ten months in each year. The appellant appealed against the decision wherein it was directed that only full-time students were to be given the bedrooms. The contention which came before the Supreme Court stated that the power to impose conditions under Sections 64 and 67 of the 2004 Act was being used to limit the class of persons for whom the HMO was suitable, hence were irrational and unenforceable.

The Supreme Court brought light upon the purpose of Section 64 (3)(a) of the Act which was to make a house reasonably suitable for occupation and also that words in their natural meaning were sufficiently wide to include the conditions imposed by the Tribunals and the Court of Appeal. The Court agreed with all those conditions which do not compromise on the standard of living of the students and agreed with the Court of Appeal that the conditions imposed by the Tribunals were deficient in that they failed to require any part of the HMO to be available for communal living. The Court, however, considered that the requirement limiting occupation to ten months in each year was irrational because if a room was suitable for sleeping for 10 months it might as well be suitable for a year too and moreover full-time students often call for the accommodation for an entire year.

Accordingly, subject to the deletion of 10-months clause, the directions were found valid. The appeal was dismissed. [Nottingham City Council v. Parr,[2018] 1 WLR 4985, order dated 10-10-2018]

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