Birmingham City Council has obtained its first Rent Repayment order against a private landlord, recouping £7,500 of housing benefit rents collected, after one landlord failed to secure a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence.
The Residential Property Tribunal’s ruling is the first ruling of its kind in the West Midlands for a Rent Repayment order.
Mr Kamaljit Singh Sanghera, of Lower Severn Street, Birmingham, admitted to having no HMO licence for his property at 15 Sandon Road, Edgbaston, in November 2009. Since then, he has obtained a HMO licence for his property, which houses 7 tenants.
Earlier this week the Residential Property Tribunal ruled that housing benefit from tenants’ rents collected by Mr Sanghera whilst his property was unlicensed should be paid back to the council. Mr Sanghera paid back the full amount within days of the ruling.
The case was brought to tribunal following the joint effort of council officers from Housing, Housing Benefits and Legal departments, who spent months collecting information about Mr Sanghera before using a provision in the Housing Act 2004 to take action.
Since April 2006, there has been a requirement placed on landlords to licence houses of three storeys or more, occupied by 5 or more tenants, without a family connection and share amenities such as a bathroom or kitchen.
The purpose of the licence ensures that management standards and housing conditions in the private rented sector are maintained and includes requirements for basic safety including gas and electrical standards and means of escape from fire.
Where an owner has failed to obtain a licence the council can make an application to the Residential Property Tribunal for a rent repayment order, requiring the landlord to repay up to 12 months of housing benefit rent payments made in respect of the unlicensed property. Tenants who are not on housing benefit can also make such an application.
Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor John Lines said: “We expect our private landlords to put the safety and well being of their tenants above their commercial interests. Fortunately most of the city’s private landlord are responsible people who care about their tenants safety.
“We’ve shown time and again we will not hesitate to prosecute landlords who don’t have HMO licences and fines can be up to £20,000.
“In this case, we are the first local authority in the West Midlands to secure a
a rent repayment order. We will not hesitate to recover public money paid to the landlord through housing benefit and I hope this case sends out a strong message to other landlords that the law must not be flouted, or we will take decisive action.”
Landlords who think their houses may require a licence are urged to call the HMO Licensing Helpline on 0121 303 4009 without delay or visit the council’s website for advice and guidance about licensing requirements.
Notes to editors
1. The Housing Act 2004 places a duty on local authorities to implement a mandatory licensing system for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), which pose the greatest health and safety risks to tenants. Under the Act, there will be three types of licensing of HMOs for properties that are covered: Compulsory – 3 or more storeys high have five or more people in more than one household and share amenities such as bathrooms, toilets and cooking facilities. Additional – A discretionary power that council may decide to apply to a particular type of HMO, or example, two story properties occupied by three or more students or asylum seekers. Selective – licensing of other residential accommodation. Example where there is low demand for housing and/or antisocial behaviour.
2. Local Authorities also have the provision to extend licensing control to cover lower risk HMOs or selective licensing of private rented dwelling where the council considers it will benefit tenants and communities, in areas of low demand and/or areas with problems of anti-social behaviour.
3. The Residential Property Tribunal Service is the public body that can decide many Rent and Leasehold disputes. It is quasi-judicial body which means that housing legislation has given it powers to settle some disputes which would otherwise have to be dealt with by the Courts. The Residential Property Tribunal Service provides an easier and generally cheaper alternative to the Court system. For more information visit http://www.rpts.gov.uk/index.htm
Further information from Belinder Kaur Lidher on 0121 303 6969