This was a case full of short time-frames, from beginning to end. We were contacted by a former tenant of a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) in Greenwich on 18th May who was interested in making a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) application. We soon learned that another former tenant, say “Ed”, had already started his own RRO application which had a hearing listed for… 30th May. Ed then reached out to us for help as well on 20th May as he hadn’t yet prepared an evidence bundle for the hearing and was at risk of having his case struck off, having not complied with a series of Tribunal directions. On top of that, he hadn’t received the evidence bundle from the Respondent.
Flat Justice got quickly into gear: we compiled an occupancy table for the property, collected signed witness statements from 4 tenants and got a commitment from them all to attend the hearing. We then compiled a 69 page evidence bundle including a skeleton argument and a cover letter asking for leave to submit a further reply to the Respondent bundle, a copy of which we requested from the Tribunal: all submitted by the deadline of 22nd May. The Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) were very helpful in supplying a statement regarding licensing before this deadline.
We received the Respondent bundle the next day and immediately drew up a response including a colour-coded timeline for the occupancy levels. The latter proved to be a key piece of evidence as the Respondent argued that the property was mainly occupied by only 2 people, so below the threshold of 3 to qualify as a licensable HMO under the RBG Additional scheme. However, our timeline, backed by the witness statements and excellent oral evidence from the 4 tenants clearly showed it was always occupied by at least 3 or 4 people apart from a period of 1 month. Later that day, we received an email from the Tribunal allowing us to submit a reply to the Respondent evidence bundle, so long as this was submitted quickly: we replied 10 minutes later with our response.
The landlord was represented by a barrister at the hearing who made a valiant effort at defence, however, as the Tribunal’s decision noted, given the well substantiated occupancy timeline, the Tribunal had no alternative but to make a RRO. We also raised the authority of Parker v Waller (2012) with regards to the claimed mortgage interest costs: as the property had been re-mortgaged these were then disallowed. We drew the Tribunal’s attention to s260 of The Housing Act 2004 (HA) so that no allowance needed to be made for any period when occupancy may have fallen below the HMO threshold. The hearing was run very efficiently and we were all finished by midday.
The hearing on Thursday 30th May was swiftly followed by a decision the following Monday, 3rd of June in our client’s favour with an award of 80% of the rent to be repaid (the rent had included utilities). From first contact to a decision in approximately 2 weeks: fast justice indeed!
Case reference: LON/00AL/HMF/2018/0054