In this week’s #ExpertView, Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law discusses Rent Repayment Orders and the recent changes which can affect landlords and tenants.
Rent Repayment Orders (RRO’s) are not new. They have been around for quite a while but were limited to situations where landlords had failed to obtain a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) license.
However, in April 2017 this all changed.
Rent Repayment Orders and Tenants
Perhaps one of the most significant changes is that tenants can now apply for a RRO themselves, without having to wait for the Local Authority to bring a prosecution first.
If you reach an agreement with your Local Authority to delay applying for your HMO license, this will not prevent your tenants applying for a RRO.
Tenants will only have to prove that a RPO offence has been committed.
Rent Repayment Offences
The other big change is that there are more rent repayment offences – it is no longer just failure to apply for an HMO license. Other RRO offences include:
In any of these circumstances, whether or not the landlord has been prosecuted and convicted, the tenant (or the Local Authority if rent is paid by benefit) can apply for a RRO providing the offence has been committed within the past 12 months.
How is the application made?
Applications must be made to the First-tier Tribunal (NOT the County Court). Tenants do not need to put the landlord on notice and can apply directly to the tribunal.
If there is no previous conviction
The tenants or the Local Authority must prove that the landlord has committed the Rent Repayment Offence on the criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt).
However, in many cases this will not be difficult – for example, if the landlord has not obtained a HMO license, the council records will show this. The landlords will have an opportunity during the proceedings to defend or show that they have a reasonable excuse.
The tenants cannot claim for more rent than they have actually paid, and the tribunal is not obliged to award the maximum 12 months.
The tribunal will take into account various circumstances including the conduct of both the landlord and the tenant and their financial circumstances.
If there is a previous conviction
This will be proof of the rent repayment offence (so the tenants won’t have to prove this now) and the tribunal will have to award the full 12 months, subject to the tenants having paid their rent.
If the application is made by the Local Authority in respect of housing benefit paid, then again the award will be for the full 12 month period.
A warning to Landlords and agents
Although these regulations are not well-known at the moment, we expect this to cease soon.
Landlords are advised to take good care that they do not commit any rent repayment offences.
Probably the most likely offence, which will almost certainly be committed inadvertently by many landlords, will be the failure to obtain an HMO license, after 1 October this year when the HMO licensing rules will change.
I will be looking at this in my next legal update post.
About the Author:
Tessa Shepperson is a lawyer specialising in landlord & tenant law and runs the popular Landlord Law online service for landlords.
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