A recent case in North London has demonstrated that landlords maintaining well-managed, good-quality rented properties and possessing a reputable character should challenge unfair council fines for failing to license their properties.
In a virtual Tribunal hearing, landlord Chris Knight successfully appealed against a £7,500 fine levied for non-compliance with the London Borough of Hackney’s selective licensing scheme. Judges ultimately reduced his fine to £2,400, despite initially disagreeing with Knight’s arguments.
Knight’s battle began in March 2022 when local council officers, during door-to-door inquiries, discovered his two-bedroom apartment in Stoke Newington, North London, had not been licensed.
After being informed of the £7,500 fine, Knight was given an opportunity to reduce it to £5,000 if he applied for a licence within 28 days, which he did. However, he continued to fight for a fairer penalty.
In the Tribunal, Knight, who represented himself, argued that the initial fine was “too high” at eight times the licensing scheme’s application fee. He further stated that he operated the property at a loss since he had not increased the rent since 2017. Although these points did not sway the judges, he still won a considerable reduction.
Several factors contributed to the reduction in Knight’s fine. This included £1,000 in ‘mitigation,’ a £2,000 reduction reflecting the good condition of the property and Knight’s ‘good character,’ and a £1,000 reduction for applying for a license promptly. His cooperation during the process led to further reductions. If Knight pays the fine promptly, an additional 20% reduction will apply, lowering the amount to £2,400.
This unique legal victory may encourage other landlords to question and challenge disproportionate fines, highlighting the potential benefits of standing up to perceived injustices in local regulations. The case also brings attention to the complex nature of council fines and the balance that must be struck between enforcing regulations and treating property owners fairly.