Comment

Residential Property Tribunal Decisions – December 2019 update

Sunday, December 15, 2019 - By Richard Tacagni, Managing Director at London Property Licensing

Richard Tacagni, Managing Director, London Property Licensing

Following the rapid expansion of housing regulatory powers, the role of the First-tier Tribunal has become increasingly important as an entry level challenge and review mechanism for the regulatory decision-making process.

Keeping abreast of Tribunal decisions can be challenging for all parties. Whilst we publish blogs on significant Upper Tribunal decisions, most First-tier Tribunal decisions go unreported. Whilst there is a search mechanism on the gov.uk website (here), it is quite basic and you may find it difficult to source decisions on a particular topic.

With the London Property Licensing website now established as a vital free information resource, perhaps it is something we should share here. Whilst we don’t have capacity to publish all decisions, there may be value in publishing a samlple of cases to demonstrate the range and breadth of decisions being made. This in turn may help encourage more consistency in how regulatory powers are being applied.

So, as a starter for 10, I’ve included a summary of some recent decisions from across the country that you may find of interest.

Civil Financial Penalties

Local authorities can impose civil financial penalties for a range of housing offences under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Each penalty can be up to £30,000 and in making their decisions, councils are required to follow statutory guidance.

In Mr Tan S Sandhu and Coventry City Council (BIR/OOCQ/HNA/2019/0023), the appeal succeeded in part and two penalties totalling £24,649 for breaching HMO Management Regulations were reduced to £3,100. The Tribunal found the council’s civil penalty policy simplistic and had been applied “…in a somewhat blinkered fashion without giving any consideration to the circumstances surrounding the offence and applying appropriate discretion”. 

In the North London Network Limited and London Borough of Camden (LON/00AG/HNA/2019/0101), the appeal succeeded in part and the penalty for failing to obtain an HMO licence was reduced from £7,000 to £4,000.

In SG Property Agents Ltd and Sheffield City Council (MAN/00CG/HNB/2019/0016), the appeal was refused. A penalty of £4,500 was confirmed for renting out a property in a selective licensing area without a licence.

Similarly, in Mr Michael Perring and Burnley Borough Council (MAN/30UD/HNA/2019/0051), the appeal was refused. A penalty of £4,500 was confirmed for renting out a property is a selective licensing area without a licence.

In Bright Estate Agents Ltd and Nottingham City Council (BIR/00FY/HNA/2019/0021 & 0022), appeals were lodged against two civil penalties for renting out properties in a selective licensing area without a licence. For reasons not disclosed, the council withdrew both penalty notices after the appeal was submitted. The landlord’s application for a Rule 13 costs order was rejected.

Improvement Notices

In Mrs Dawn Barrow and East Riding of Yorkshire Council (MAN/00FB/HIN/2019/0035), the appeal was refused. The work required to remedy a category 1 fire safety hazard was found to be reasonable.

Prohibition Orders

In Mr Colin Reeder and Portsmouth City Council (CHI/00MR/HPO/2019/0003), the appeal was successful and the Prohibition Order on a self-contained flat for a category 1 crowding and space hazard and other category 2 hazards was quashed. The Tribunal were not satisfied there was a category 1 crowding and space hazard, nor that a Prohibition Order was appropriate in the circumstances.

Rent Repayment Orders

In Chantel Campbell and Liondaris Trading Limited (CAM/00KA/HMI/2019/0001), the application for a Rent Repayment Order in Luton was refused as no relevant offence had been committed. The claim related to an alleged breach of licence conditions which is not an offence for which an RRO can be claimed.

In Lauren Rhodes & Rebecca Quilter and Guy Mannering (CHI/00MS/HMK/2019/0019), the application for a Rent Repayment Order in Southampton was refused as no relevant offence had been committed. It was held that the alleged third lodger was actually a member of the owner occupier’s family. As a result, the property did not constitute an HMO and no licence was needed.

In Matthew Grogan and Jill Davey (LON/00AM/HMF/2019/0032), the application for a Rent Repayment Order in Hackney was refused as no relevant offence had been committed. It was held that the landlord had a defence of reasonable excuse for not having applied for a licence. The landlord had been unable to apply as the property address was not recognised by the council’s online application system. It took the council about 5 months to rectify the issue, at which point the landlord submitted their application. It was held they took all reasonable steps to apply and were prevented from doing so by matters outside of their control. 

Please don’t get the impression most RRO applications are unsuccessful. In my experience, many applications succeed, and the financial award can be significant.

In Samuel Brown & Jessica Williams and Mohamed Khalil & Nataly Atalla (LON/00BB/HMF/2019/0022), the tenants of this Newham property were awarded £3,459.04 + £300 costs. The property had a selective licence, but this was held to be the incorrect type of licence as it was occupied as an HMO.
 
In the London Borough of Camden, four tenants were awarded £17,420 after the landlord failed to obtain an HMO licence (LON/00AG/HMK/2019/055). Meanwhile, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, two tenants were awarded £16,033 after their landlord failed to obtain a selective licence (LON/00BG/HMG/2019/0017).

In Summer Oxley and Live In Guardians Limited (LON/00BG/HMF/2019/0037), the licencee was awarded £4,937.40 after it was held the property in London Borough of Tower Hamlets that was being occupied by property guardians constituted a licensable HMO and no licence application had been submitted.

Costs awards

In Mr J Snow and Holland Park Properties Ltd, a Rent Repayment Order was made for £4,010 as the property was found to be a licensable but unlicensed HMO. The tenant then applied for a Rule 13 costs order. The Tribunal found that the landlord had been unreasonable in defending the claim as their defence was not credible. As a result, the Tribunal made a costs order of £5,284.62 against the landlord (LON/00AC/HMF/2018/0041).  

This is by no means a comprehensive round-up of all such decisions and not is it intended to be. After all, there are now almost 400 decisions published online.

If you want to study any of these judgements in more detail, visit the gov.uk website (here) and insert the case reference in the search box.

Would you find it useful if we publish similar updates in the future? To let us know your thoughts, please complete our quick 1 minute survey here.

The author of this blog, Richard Tacagni MCIEH CEnvH, is Managing Director of London Property Licensing. You can contact him at Richard@londonpropertylicensing.co.uk.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of London Property Licensing. These blogs are designed to stimulate discussion and debate within the property industry. This article does not represent legal advice and should not be treated as such.

For all the latest news and comment, you can sign up for the free London Property Licensing newsletter here.

Advertise your business here Water for Kids charity advert Central Housing Group Advert Sign up to our London Property Licensing newsletter Gas Safe Register advert