Flat Justice has helped win permission to appeal another decision handed out by the First-tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Residential Property) in London (FtT).
In a bizarre ruling in February this year, the FtT had decided that a licensed HMO, that had been sold by the previous owner, continued to have a valid licence. This denied the Applicant in this Rent Repayment Order (RRO) case a possibility to get her rent back: even though the new owner had neglected to apply for a new licence.
The Applicant, G, was a student at the University of Greenwich, whose grandmother had helped her find accommodation for her studies by paying her rent in advance. Once in the property, however, she had serious concerns about the property maintenance and management but her complaints fell on deaf ears. Having paid all her rent in advance she couldn’t afford to look for an alternative: she was trapped. When she realised that the property was also not licensed, the possibility of a RRO seemed like a just way to get back the money her grandmother had paid for her.
Licences for HMOs and other properties licensable under The Housing Act 2004 (HA), are attached to both the property and the licence holder. When a licence holder dies, for example, it is specified (in the HA 2004) that the licence should be considered automatically revoked. In order to obtain a licence, landlords must show that they personally have a clean criminal record sheet.
G requested permission to appeal the decision at the FtT but was refused, stating:
“The Applicant’s arguments … are comprehensively and coherently set out but principally consist of reasons why the law should be other than the Tribunal found it to be.”
We applied directly to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (UT) who have only just recently given their decision on the appeal request.
In a strong statement, the UT announced:
“It is clearly arguable that the First-tier Tribunal was wrong to conclude that an HMO licence continues unless revoked even where the licensee has disposed of the property. There is a realistic prospect of a successful appeal in this case.”
Flat Justice helped to draft the request for appeal and is now fully representing the appellant, all on a pro bono basis. We want to help establish case law in landmark decisions that will guide the rest of the country in RRO and related cases.
As the FtT decision stood, you would be able to sell a licensed property to a new owner who would have then been immune to RRO action on licensing without licensing themselves. For example, a landlord with a criminal record could purchase such a property and operate it with impunity. Also, the Local Authority (LA) would not have a responsible licensee to hold to account for the running of the property. Similar cases might have used this FtT decision to avoid any need for licensing.
If the UT should find in our favour, however, this will not only mean a success for this particular RRO Applicant, but, as this is a case at the Upper Tribunal, its decision will guide all FtT decisions in similar matters.
We will be making further submissions this month and hope that a decision may be made in August. We will, of course update here at that time.
If you have a RRO case where you believe the judgment has been unfair in its interpretation of the law at the FtT please get in touch with Flat Justice: we may be able to help you make an appeal.