The term ‘rogue landlord’ describes a residential landlord who knowingly defies his legal and contractual obligations by renting unsafe and substandard accommodation to tenants.The Housing and Planning Act 2016 (the Act) has introduced a raft of measures to enable tenants and local authorities to bring criminal landlords to justice and force them to improve their offering or leave the sector completely. These measures include the recently introduced ‘rent repayment orders’ and the anticipated ‘banning orders’ and database of rogue landlords to become effective later this year.
Rent repayment orders became effective from the 6th April 2017. This new legislation enables a tenant or a local housing authority to apply for a rent repayment order against a landlord who has committed a specified offence.
Section 40 of the Act defines a rent repayment order as an order requiring the landlord under a tenancy of housing in England to repay an amount of rent paid by a tenant or pay to a local housing authority an amount in respect of an award of universal credit paid in respect of rent under the tenancy.
A tenant or a local housing authority may apply tothe First-tier Tribunal for a rent repayment order against a landlord who has been criminally convicted of a specified offence, or when they have sufficient evidence that a landlord is in breach of a specified offence and the Tribunal will, beyond reasonable doubt, uphold their claim.
Sections 40 of the Act sets out the specified offences:
- Violence for securing entry
(section 6(1) Criminal Law Act 1977)
- Eviction or harassment of occupiers
(section 1(2)(3) or (3A) Protection from Eviction Act 1977)
- Failure to comply with improvement notice
(section 30(1) Housing Act 2004)
- Failure to comply with prohibition order etc.
(section 32(1) Housing Act 2004)
- Control or management of unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO)
(section 72(1) Housing Act 2004)
- Control or management of unlicensed house
(section 95(1) Housing Act 2004)
- Breach of banning order
(section 21 Housing and Planning Act 2016)
The size of a rent repayment order is calculated in accordance to the offence committed and the rent paid by the tenant for a specified amount of time from when the offence was committed.
If the grounds are for violence for securing unlawful entry or unlawful eviction and harassment of occupiers; then the amount of the order will be determined in accordance to the rent paid by the tenant over a period of 12 months ending at the date that the offence was committed.
If the grounds are for the landlord’s failure to comply with an improvement notice or a prohibition order, or for the control or management of an unlicensed HMO or unlicensed house, or for breaching a banning order; then the amount of the order will be determined by the rent paid by the tenant for a period, not exceeding 12 months, during which the landlord was committing the offence.
Section 73 and Section 96 of the Housing Act 2004 confirms a tenant may seek a rental repayment order for rent paid to the landlord, for a period of up to one year’s rent, when the premises are unlicensed.
Where the landlord has been convicted of a specified offence or has received a financial penalty in respect of the offence and there is no prospect of appeal against that penalty, then except in exceptional circumstances, the Tribunal must provide a rent repayment order for the maximum amount.
Section 46 of the Act confirms that an amount payable under a rent repayment order is recoverable as a debt.
Section 48 requires a local authority to consider applying for a rent repayment order if it becomes aware that a person has been convicted of a specified offence in relation to housing in its area and section 49 confirms that a local authority may help a tenant to apply for a rent repayment order.
The application for a rent repayment order must be made in the period of 12 months that the offence was committed. Ending with the day on which the application was made
Figures released in 2015 showed that there were just 2,006 convictions of rogue landlords between 2006 and 2014. The resulting fines totaled £3million. In 2015/16 the biggest financial penalty imposed on a landlord was £162,000 for breaking 22 separate housing regulations where the property was branded “illegal and unsafe”.
The effectiveness of this legislation will be dependent upon the willingness of tenants and local housing authorities to work together to pursue rogue landlords for criminal prosecutions and then apply to First-tier tribunalsto award the maximum amount for rent repayment orders. Alternatively tenants and local authorities will have to compile sufficient evidence to enable a Tribunal to confirm, beyond reasonable doubt, that a landlord has committed a specified offence and therefore liable for a rent repayment order.