Another week, another appeal

Hot on the heels of our recent appeal request success at the Upper Tribunal, mentioned in the previous post, we have now been given permission by the First-tier Tribunal Property Chamber (Residential Property) (FtT) to appeal another decision of theirs.

This case didn’t even make it as far as a full hearing at the FtT yet, so this must be some sort of record…

The case involves a rent-to-rent situation where the agent’s Ltd liability company took out a 5 year lease from the HMO owners and sublet the rooms. The HMO wasn’t licensed and we have been assisting the Applicants since February with their applications both for the licensing offence, as well as for harassment and illegal eviction.

We had selected the property owners as the Respondents, as is normal in RRO cases. However the FtT selected the Ltd. liability company, run by the agent, as the Respondent because that is who was listed in the tenancy agreements. This company had/has no assets and Flat Justice was concerned that the company could easily be liquidated in the case that an award was made against them, leaving our clients with nothing and with justice being frustrated.

As a result of our insistence, a preliminary hearing was arranged in mid May, the decision for which came out recently and upheld the FtT’s position. This is the decision we are appealing here.

In our request to appeal we stated:

Selection of the Respondent in Rent Repayment Order (RRO) cases is the most important stage of the case. Tenants are often misled by rogue property managers as to the true identity of their landlord by substitution or misinformation in a tenancy agreement. If the Tribunal simply selects
Respondents on the basis of what is written in a tenancy agreement there will be many cases that fail to tackle the real culprit. Mistakes at this stage can cause the purpose of the legislation to be subverted, quite apart from the wasted time and money used in bringing proceedings and
conducting hearings targeted at the wrong Respondent.

We have seen loads of cases, unfortunately, where Applicants come to us too late in the process with the wrong Respondent having been chosen and the whole application as a result. This waste of time and money is not only a problem for Applicants but also for the justice system. A judge at the FtT is paid at least £110,000/ year (Salary Group 7); there are 261 working days in 2019, minus 30 days paid holiday, say, makes 231 days. That makes a daily rate of £421/day. There are often 3 judges at a hearing which can often take all day. Then there are the offices, support staff and large amounts of correspondence generated for each case: the cost for serving justice often far outweighs the RRO award that is sought. Clearly it is in the interest of the FtT to make sure that there is as little waste as possible and that the perpetrators of the “mischief” are brought to book rather than meaningless awards being made against empty special purpose vehicles.

The FtT agreed to the appeal with the following statement:

…the issue of who is a ‘landlord’ under the relevant
provisions of the Housing and Planning act 2016 is an issue that would
benefit from some clarity. The issues raised by the Applicants are of
potentially wide implication. It is therefore right for them to be
considered afresh by an appellate body.

We will update you on the progress of this case here in due course.