Tenants Succeed in Rent Repayment Application

Tenants of poorly maintained properties are not powerless and have the ability to apply for rent repayment orders where issues with the property amount to offences committed by the landlord. The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) recently ordered the landlord of an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) to pay a total of £14,400 in rent repayments to three tenants.

The tenants applied to the FTT for orders for repayment of the rent they had paid over a period of nearly a year. The basis of the application was that the landlord had had control of or managed an HMO which was required to be licensed but was not, contrary to Section 72(1) of the Housing Act 2004. The boiler had broken down on multiple occasions, leaving the tenants without hot water from the kitchen or bathroom taps for more than six months, and the shower was not working for over a month. After the boiler was replaced, an exposed live wire from it hung above the kitchen surface where the tenants prepared food, posing a fire and electrical hazard. There was no fire door to the kitchen.

There were also problems with the radiators and severe mould and dampness on the outer wall. Two of the tenants suffered from asthma and allergies, and one of them was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and categorised as 'extremely vulnerable' by the NHS.

The FTT noted that failure to license HMOs can lead to significant health and safety risks for tenants, and that deterrence is a large part of the purpose of rent repayment legislation. The FTT found that the starting point for the rent repayment award should be 70 per cent of the rent paid. After taking the aggravating factors into account, the FTT made rent repayment orders totalling £14,400, or 80 per cent of the tenants' rent over the relevant period. The landlord was also ordered to reimburse the tenants' application and hearing fees.