Local authorities may apply to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for a “banning order” against a residential landlord who has been convicted of a “banning order offence” (which includes managing an HMO without having obtained a licence, contrary to s.72, Housing Act 2004).
A banning order may prohibit someone from letting housing, engaging in letting agency work, engaging in property management work, or any combination of these (s.14, Housing and Planning Act 2016). It may contain exceptions to allow a banned person to bring tenancies to an end or wind down a business (s.17). In deciding both whether to make an order and what terms to impose, the FTT must have regard to, amongst other things, the seriousness of the offence for which the person has been convicted.
This was exmained in the recent case of Knapp v Bristol CC.
In April 2021, the landlord was convicted on her guilty plea in respect of eight HMO licensing offences at various properties and fined £22,000. In January 2022, the local authority applied for a banning order, seeking to prohibit the landlord from letting or managing residential property in England for 10 years. The Tribunal found that a banning order was necessary and proportionate and made the order for a 5-year term. The order came into force with immediate effect so as to prohibit her from granting new tenancies but was suspended for six months in respect of her existing tenancies so as to allow her to take steps to terminate them or otherwise to ensure compliance with the banning order (e.g. by selling the properties).
The landlord appealed, arguing that no order should have been made because the underlying conduct was not sufficiently serious. She further argued that the banning order could only apply to prohibit future lettings, so that the suspension terms were unlawful because the order could not affect existing tenancies.
The appeal was dismissed. The FTT was fully entitled to conclude that a banning order should be made. It had examined the convictions in detail and had formed the view that the offences were sufficiently serious to necessitate a banning order. In particular, the FTT had found – and had been entitled to find – that the fine imposed was a large one which, in turn, indicated that the criminal court had found these offences to be serious. Nor was there any merit to the argument that a banning order could not relate to existing tenancies. The power to create exceptions to a banning order (s.17) provided clear evidence that Parliament had intended existing tenancies to be within the scope of a banning order.
Published on 05/10/2023