Retaliatory Eviction – Unlicensed HMO

by Readers Question

19:07 PM, 20th August 2013
About 8 years ago

Retaliatory Eviction – Unlicensed HMO

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Retaliatory Eviction – Unlicensed HMO

In a similar situation to the excellent discussion on Retaliatory Eviction, I can report that I have encountered similar practices in an unlicensed HMO. The situation is in some ways worsened by the fact that the four tenants involved were teenagers (2nd year university students) at the time that the 1 year AST was entered into, and as such, inexperienced in property rental. To say that they were exploited by the letting agent would be an understatement (in my opinion). Retaliatory Eviction - Unlicensed HMO

The property in question (in an E3 postcode area) is a double maisonette, two houses built one atop the other, the upper one having a separate entrance from a concrete walk way. It was originally built on two floors with the lower floor comprising a separate kitchen at the front with an L-shaped living/dining room at the rear. It has been “converted” so that the original kitchen is now a fourth bedroom and the original dining area of the lounge/diner is a very small kitchen. Dining is now at one end of the lounge area. Plumbing from the repositioned kitchen is still connected to the original service points by running the water and waste pipes through the new 4th bedroom around three walls in boxes. As you can imagine, the waste outlet is very slow due the the poor rate of fall in the pipe. The gas boiler has also been repositioned as a wall mounted unit in the lounge area again with water and gas supply pipes running around the walls through the living area and hallway back to the original connection points in the “new” 4th bedroom.

Since we have here 4 unrelated people living in a 2-floor house with shared bathroom and kitchen, we clearly have an unlicensed HMO. As the tenants have come to realise their homes status as an HMO, they have asked the letting agent to confirm the situation with the landlord and asked what could be done to ensure that the property could be rectified to meet the HMO standards. At first the letting agent denied that the property was an HMO, however, the tenants persisted. After a month or so, the letting agent then said that the property was not a licensed HMO. After another month or so of pressure, the letting agent said he had contacted the Housing Department of the Local Authority, who had confirmed to him that the property was not an HMO. On being asked for the name and department of the person he had spoken to, no name and a non existent department was forthcoming.

Subsequently, the tenant contacted the Local Authority who confirmed by e-mail that the property was an HMO. When this was reported to the letting agent, their response was, the local authority had contacted the landlord and if the matter was pursued by the tenants, the landlord would evict using a section 21 notice. Subsequently, the letting agent has said that he will get the landlord to fix any minor problems with the property being an HMO, but “if you ask for anything expensive he will evict, what is it that you want?”

The tenants have again contacted the Local Authority to ask for an inspection of the property to try to gain an official list of rectifications required, but have been met with a “we can’t inspect every property because our workloads are too high”.

It seems that a two tier HMO is not working too well as the threat to evict will stop any reporting of the situation by the tenant, especially where the Local Authority does not intervene . Since the HMO designation is statutory, I would have thought that it would be mandatory to at least investigate claims of this nature, otherwise why have the unlicensed HMO status when there appears to be no effective means of gaining enforcement of the statute without the risk of eviction?

Since all the guidance I have read says that the the requirements for HMO’s applies equally whether or not it is licensed or unlicensed, is there not a case to simply have all HMO’s licensed? As the statistics show, tenants are 14 times more likely to die in an HMO than in a regular tenant in a non-HMO, or is it just a fact of life that we cannot afford to protect all HMO tenants equally because of the current financial crisis, and that’s not mentioning what I believe to be the poor practice of the letting agent who is, at best, taking advantage of the naivety the tenant by knowingly letting an unfit HMO.

Eric Crossley

Comments

Mary Latham

13:21 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Dave Reaney" at "20/08/2013 - 19:52":

Dave this recent case clarified the issue of rented properties above shops - just for info.

London Borough of Islington v The Unite Group Plc [2013] EWHC 508 (Admin)

The high court found that “it is the HMO that must comprise the three storeys and not the building in which an HMO happens to be found”.

In my opinion the Judge got it wrong and this is not in line with the ENTEC Report upon which the rules of Mandatory Licensing in the HA 2004 were based but ........

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My book, where I warn about the storm clouds that are gathering for landlords is here >>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484855337

Jay James

13:35 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mary Latham" at "22/08/2013 - 13:21":

If the High Court judge were in line with the ENTEC report, what would he have decided?
-----
Interesting that a High Court judge decided this, since the High Court can bind lower courts, where many HMO cases will be take place. (Unless of course the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court / House of Lords has made a contradictory decision.)

chris howells

17:38 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Dave Reaney" at "22/08/2013 - 12:44":

Its been licensed previously, then I had couples etc, its all updated with fire alarm, emergency lighting locks etc, evrything conforms just annoying that there relicensing fee is higher than in Cardiff

David Sweeney

18:17 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mary Latham" at "22/08/2013 - 13:21":

Thankyou Mary. I share your disagreement with that, my understanding is that 2 floors above a kebab shop = 3 floors so far as HMO licensing is concerned. However, another one to add to my limited collection of HMO facts/casela

Mary Latham

18:52 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "22/08/2013 - 13:35":

The ENTEC report upon which it was concluded that the point at which an HMO became more "dangerous" - ie more difficult to exist in a fire - was when there were 5 or more people converging on the stairwell and they had to go down more than one flight of stairs as their main exist route. Thus the point at which an HMO must have a licence is meant to be at that "danger" mark. 5 or more people living on three or more floors.

Where a two story HMO is above another building it is still one floor more from the ground and therefore the "danger" point is reached regardless of the amount of floors that are covered by living space!!!!!!!

I wish that I could remember the dates of the report but it was certainly in the 80's or 90's and like so much of this old stuff will not come up on Google.

I was part of the discussions that took place when the Housing Bill was drafted. It originally said that properties must be licensed when they were EITHER over more than two floors OR where there were 5 or more sharers. We fought hard based on the ENTEC report and won so that the word OR was replaced by AND in the final Act.

I know authorities that include basements because there are meters in them and the tenants need to go down to take a reading - this is not in line with the purpose of the legislation but I have fought and lost that argument.

The problem is that the HA 2004 was very poorly drafted and has left too much room for interpretation. I just wish that new legislation carried notes to show the basis of the law, this would prevent much of the misinterpretation which is often based on how you read the words rather than the spirit in which they were written.It is very frustrating for old birds like me who KNOW what the law was meant to say and why and I am left to argue with those who choose an interpretation of their own including Judges as in this case.

Sometimes I feel like posting "I KNOW because I was there" but instead I spend hours searching for case law to combat other case law that is being quoted by those who were not there at the time.

Anyway I will stop moaning now and content myself with knowing that I am right AGAIN and waiting for a Judge who does understand the law to confirm that fact.

Yes I am having a side swipe but not at you Jay Jay.

Follow me on Twitter@landlordtweets

My book, where I warn about the storm clouds that are gathering for landlords is here >>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484855337

Jay James

22:06 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mary Latham" at "22/08/2013 - 18:52":

no worries, I took it as it was. ie daring to say a judge got the law wrong.
I have often tried to reason with people that judges do get the law wrong.

I did take my reading of HMO definitions (nothing for years, so might have remembered wrong) as meaning to focus of safety. I also originally thought as u pointed out, that legislation means "number of floors to ground" are what define "number of floors".

Jay James

22:15 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

It was put to me years ago (EHO), that where several people know each other before renting a property together, that they count as one household for the purposes of defining HMOs.
If correct, this would make the thread header case interesting.

I have learnt through uni (I am a mature student) that it is very common for university friends to get together and rent a property together.
If this is what occurred in the case at the top of the page, then perhaps it can be argued that they are one household (for HMO purposes) and are not a HMO.

David Sweeney

23:43 PM, 22nd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "22/08/2013 - 22:15":

The definition of related is quite clear in s258 - drinking buddy or study chum are not relatives 😉

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/34/section/258

Mary Latham

11:01 AM, 23rd August 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "22/08/2013 - 22:15":

This was the case until the Housing Act 2004 changed the definition of an HMO and included what were previously called "shared houses". There are no longer shared house where there are more than two unrelated people it is an HMO

Follow me on Twitter@landlordtweets

My book, where I warn about the storm clouds that are gathering for landlords is here >>> http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484855337

Jay James

15:41 PM, 23rd August 2013
About 8 years ago

thanks to Mary and Dave.
so EHOs do get it wrong on occasion!

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