Change to LA’s HMO quantity – valid reason for tenant’s action?

Change to LA’s HMO quantity – valid reason for tenant’s action?

9:40 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago 7

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Hi, the situation: Landlord has rented out their 4-bed house to 4 tenants for a number of years, but now needs to sell the property. S21s were issued, and all the tenants left.

One ex-tenant has now threatened to sue the LL due to a recent change in the local authority’s occupant number that constitutes an HMO.

This local authority had always deemed an excess of 4 tenants to be an HMO, and the LL kept himself up to date with any changes – or so he thought. Last year, the local authority reduced the ‘standard’ HMO number to 3, with numbers in excess of this requiring an additional ‘application’ (I forget the actual terminology – sorry).

The LL kept himself updated on such changes on the local authority’s site, but misinterpreted when these changes would come into effect; this local authority is divided into at least three wards, with seemingly arbitrary introduction periods for these changes; he read that it would be from ‘Nov 2023’, whereas that applied to the last of the wards, with his coming under these changes last year.

There is little question that an application to retain the ‘4’ would have been successful. The ex-tenant is claiming unfair eviction under S21.
Qs!
1) What should the LL do?
2) Would this ex-tenant have to demonstrate an actual ‘loss’ to have a successful case?
It doesn’t appear to me as though the tenant can demonstrate a ‘loss’, since if the LL had correctly taken out this additional cert last year, they’d still have been evicted this year, and at the same time.

Thoughts and advice, please!

Thanks,

Tom


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Comments

TheBiggerPicture

10:48 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

Actions have already been taken and there is no undo button.
So it's damage limitation mode.

I think the first thing to do is get information.
I would tell the tenant that you want to settle the dispute amicably if there is a basis for it.
Ask them under what basis they should be compensated and how much?

Let them do the legwork and prove that you are in the wrong and liable. You won't have to guess what they have on you or how strong their case is then. Also you will know whether fighting or settling.

Move on from there.

Seething Landlord

10:50 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

I am not aware of "unfairness" as a ground for claim.

The risk is that the tenants will pursue a claim for a rent repayment order for the period that the property was unlicenced.

Tom Thumb

10:58 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

Thanks.
That is, indeed, what they are trying - to claim a year's rent.

Seething Landlord

11:40 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Tom Thumb at 09/11/2023 - 10:58
In that case the answers to your two questions are:
1) check out the advice online, e.g. https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/rent-repayment-order/

2) the tenants do not need to demonstrate any loss in order to obtain a RRO

DPT

11:46 AM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

If you were operating a licensable HMO without a licence then its likely that the tenant(s) will win a Rent Repayment Order. The amount will be up to a judge and you will plead mitigation, but the starting point will be the length of time you were in breach to a maximum of 1 year. If they had a joint tenancy then it may require all of them to work together to bring a successful case against you. You should get advice from a specialist housing lawyer, (not a regular high street firm).

Tom Thumb

12:00 PM, 9th November 2023, About 7 months ago

Thank you all. I'll pass all that on 🙂

Tom Thumb

10:14 AM, 10th November 2023, About 7 months ago

I received notification of another reply beginning, "I only know a little bit of useful info for you. Our ex tenant got a hearing with county court…", but it doesn't appear. I presume it was deleted?

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