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The Inferno of the private rental sector


For some reason, a whole tranche of First tier Tribunal decisions on rent repayment order applications have just shown up on Bailii. Collectively, they confirm that should you wish to take a journey through the 9 circles of the hell of the private rented sector, rent repayment order decisions are a good way to find displayed what Dante tells us are the three conditions of sin – incontinence, vice, and brute bestiality.

Let us start with incontinence (encompassing, greed, gluttony and avarice).

Flat 1, Milton House, Roman Road, London E2 0HS ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00BG_HMF_2020_0155 (17 March 2021)

The applicant, Ms McDermott sought a rent repayment order for 1 April 2019 to 31 August 2019. The respondent, Arshad Ali, did not attend the hearing and played no part. Mr Ali owned the property. Neither did the letting agent, City Move Estate Limited (but not named as a respondent). The property was a four bedroomed flat, occupied by five people during the relevant period and, from 1 April 2019, subject to LB Tower Hamlets additional licensing scheme. No licence was obtained or applied for. Ms McDermott had been given a ‘licence agreement’ for a ‘house share licence’ by City Move Estates, which described CME as ‘an investment company in possession of the property’ and which did not identify the landlord.

No defence of reasonable excuse was advanced by the respondent. The Tribunal found that he was the person entitled to receive the rack rent, and:

Further under the provisions of s263(3)(b) he is the person managing the Flat as he would have received the rent but for having entered into some form of agreement with CME by virtue of which that company received the rent. We cannot envisage an arrangement whereby the respondent would have allowed CME to rent out the Flat without some financial recompense.

Rakusen v Jepson borne in mind.

So, Arhsad Ali had control or management of an unlicensed HMO. No deduction in award from the full rent was made. RRO of £3280 plus £300 application fee made.

This will not be the last dodgy rent to rent/agent setup in this post, nor the last sham ‘licence agreement’.

44 Broomfield Street, London E14 6BQ ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00BG_HMG_2020_0007 (18 March 2021)

The applicant, Joseph Cutts, represented by an officer of LB Tower Hamlets, sought an RRO against the landlord, Mohammed Jalal Ahmed, in respect of an unlicensed HMO – a four bedroom flat with four tenants, which was subject to LBTH’s additional licensing scheme from 1 April 2019. No licence application was made until 3 October 2019.

The landlord did not attend the hearing, but had made submissions that he had:

entered into an agreement with Signature Properties to “let and manage on my behalf”. He says that they were advised that the letting should be to one family. The respondent goes on to say “I was generally aware that on occasions they did use other agencies to assist them in letting properties if they were unable to let the property within 14 days.” The respondent says that this is what happened and agents called Flintons were engaged. (In the documentation Flintons appears to be (or to have been) a trading name of a company called Flat Sharing of Bow Common Lane E3).

The Tribunal was not taken by this mitigation:

Signature was contractually bound to pay the respondent rent of £2000. Flintons entered into an agreement with Signature on much the same terms but could let for a greater sum and to “tenants”. In fact, the rent paid by the applicant was £715 per month. If four tenants paid that amount then the monthly rent was £2860. The Tribunal was not persuaded by the written evidence from the respondent. It seemed to the Tribunal that the respondent should have known what was occurring at his property and was aware that other agents might be involved.

Following the Upper Tribunal decision in Goldsbrough and Swart v CA Property Management Ltd and Gardner (2019) UKUT 311(LC), the respondent was in control of an unlicensed property. RRO made, in view of Vadamalayan v Stewart and Others (2020) UKUT 183 (LC) on the full rent starting point, for £4163.50 – after a £150 deduction for utility costs.

On the landlord’s conduct, the Tribunal said:

The landlord should have licenced this property but did not. This is a significant factor when assessing the amount of the rent repayment order. The claimed ignorance of the actual conduct of the ‘rent to rent’ arrangement that evolved here speaks to a lack of oversight and curiosity by the landlord which in our view also amounts to poor conduct. The applicant also described a number of disrepair and management shortcomings which compounded such an unsatisfactory situation.

Furthermore, there was a distinct lack of engagement with the Tribunal on the part of the respondent exemplified by his failure to attend the hearing or provide an explanation for his failure to attend or to send a representative on his behalf. The failure to assist the Tribunal In this way is aggravating conduct.

14A West Street, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO21 1UF ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT CHI_45UC_HMF_2020_0037 (19 March 2021)

The applicant, Ms Nocula-Giza, sought an RRO for a failure to licence an HMO. Arun District Council had attended the property and found it to be operating as an unlicensed HMO. The landlord, Magdelena Holubowska, had not given any written tenancy agreements. She claimed that

a Romanian friend had rented the flat from 10 January 2020 for six months. She had agreed to be a guarantor under the tenancy agreement. The friend lived at the property with three others from Romania, all working as builders, but when they lost their jobs as a result of the Covid lockdown all four left the UK. This left the Respondent liable for the rent, which she said was £1050.00 per month. When the Tribunal asked to see a copy of the tenancy agreement, the Respondent said she didn’t have one. She did not know who owned the property.

The Respondent said she panicked and decided to rent the flat out herself. She advertised on Facebook. She accepted what the Applicant had told the Tribunal about the occupiers and that she did not have, or apply for, a HMO licence. She said that she paid the rent for the flat from March 2020 onwards until she gave up the flat on 8 October 2020, and that she also paid the Council Tax and water bills.

She claimed to have made no profit.

The Tribunal was not impressed:

As regards the landlord’s conduct, in the view of the Tribunal the Respondent’s actions have been, at best, highly irresponsible. She decided to rent out rooms at the flat without having any apparent authority to do so. No written tenancy agreements were provided. She had prior experience of renting properties but produced no evidence that she did anything at all in terms of complying with the legal requirements placed on all landlords e.g. in respect of gas safety. She provided the Tribunal with a narrative, seeking sympathy, but chose not to provide a single item of written evidence to support anything that she said. The Tribunal does not believe that the Respondent let out rooms in a panic and only wanted to cover the outgoings. A reasonable person who found themselves liable for four months’ rent as a guarantor would have mitigated their loss by asking the head landlord/ agent to re-let, and, if that didn’t work, by ending the tenancy at the first opportunity at the end of the initial 6- month term. Instead she saw the property as an opportunity to make money, and only gave it up shortly after the Council discovered it was an unlicensed HMO.

RRO of £1448 – the full rent – and payment of £300 application fee ordered.

197A Lewisham Way, London SE4 1UY – Ref; ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00AZ_HMF_2020_0112 (19 March 2021)

The applicants, Athina Ofosu and Samuel Amoako, sought an RRO for a failure to licence an HMO against the landlord Kwaku Bawuah Asare-Konadu.

The applicants were tenants of one room and shared kitchen and bathroom with three other households in the flat. The respondent was joint owner, but was the only name on the tenancy agreement. LB Lewisham stated that a) there had been an additional licensing scheme since 11 Feb 2017 and b) a notice of HMO Declaration under s.255 Housing Act 2004 had been issued on 10 August 2018. No HMO licence had been applied for as of 30 April 2020. Lewisham had issued a civil penalty notice.

The landlord asserted that on 6 January 2020 he had made a licence application with the help of a Lewisham officer at their offices and tried to pay the fee on 31 January 2020. He thought the application had been accepted as Lewisham had taken no further enforcement action. Lewisham said the fee payment had bounced so the application was not valid and they had told the landlord this on 30 April 2020.

The Respondent stated emphatically that he had been expecting a reply within about two weeks. Despite the fact that he is potentially subject to criminal sanctions and has not seen any return on his payment of £2,000, his only action in the 13 months since has been to make one phone call in which an officer, whose name the Respondent does not know, simply promised to write. This is not credible.

In the Tribunal’s opinion, it is far more likely that Lewisham did communicate to the Respondent that his payment had failed and the absence of communication since that time is because Lewisham have left it to the Respondent to remedy this and he has chosen not to do so.

The landlord’s conduct in failing to carry out repairs, failing to protect deposits, and failing to pay ‘inclusive’ utility bills merited an RRO at the full rent, with a deduction of £40 per month for utilities.

RRO of £7360 and application fee of £300 made.

147 Barrier Point Road, E16 2SE ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00BB_HMF_2020_0115 (22 March 2021)

The applicants, Emmanuel Lamson and Ken Uzuegbuna sought an RRO against the landlords Lucy Nana Yaa Barnes and Kayode Clement Ayotunde for an unlicensed property. The respondents (by Ms Barnes) admitted the property should have been licensed and that a licence had been applied for on 22 June 2020, the end of the period for which the tenants claimed.

The rent under the tenancy agreement was £1200 per month. Ms Barnes then immediately demanded that a new tenancy agreement at £1450 was entered into. Two months at £1450 were paid, then the tenants paid £1200 thereafter. At one point Ms Barnes had unlawfully excluded the tenants from the property.

Ms Barnes defence was that she hadn’t know the property had to be licenced and she had applied as soon as she had been made aware.

The Tribunal rightly found that this was not a defence. Further, her behaviour was unacceptable at times and verging on harassment. No plea of financial hardship had been made. RRO ordered at the full rent, less a county court judgment sum in respect of the deposit, for £6,400.

Then we turn to vice, which includes fraud….

58 Selkirk Road, London, SW17 0ES – Ref ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00BJ_HMF_2020_0093 (19 March 2021)

The applicant tenant, Jacob Jewitt-Jalland sought an RRO against the immediate landlord, Nest Estates Limited, in respect of an unlicensed HMO. Mr Jewitt-Jalland had signed a ‘licence agreement’ for a room in a terraced house with 5 bedrooms (one converted from the living room). Rent was £625 per month, with a deposit of £721 and an ‘administration fee’ of £150. The superior landlord, Jan Ahmad, was perhaps fortunate that Mr Jewitt-Jalland did not seek an RRO against him as well, as an RRO had been made against both Nest and Mr Ahmad in respect of another of the tenants in 2020.

The respondent, in the person of Mr Rizwan Alam, director of Nest Estates, made a last minute application to adjourn the hearing on the basis that the company could not pay for legal advice. This was refused. The respondent did not attend the hearing.

The Tribunal found:
a) the ‘licence’ was a sham and this was a tenancy.
b) The respondent had control of the property (as would the superior landlord, Mr Ahmad) and managed the property
c) the offence had been committed
d) as the licence was an artificial transaction to conceal the tenancy, there was no justification for the administration charge, the deposit should have been protected and returned to the tenant, and complaints of disrepair had been ignored, the landlord’s conduct merited an RRO of the full rent paid. There should be no deduction for the £4000 financial penalty imposed by LB Wandsworth.

RRO of £3,125 and £300 application fee made.

30 Phipps House White City Estate W 12 7 QE – Ref ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00AN_HMF_2020_0099 (22 March 2021)

The applicants, Matthew Anderson, Clara Labaste, Victoria Valderrey and Elodie Gaillard, sought an RRO against the landlord, Gemma Jane Constance Aldridge, for a failure to licence an HMO. The property was a two bed flat, with the living room converted to a third bedroom, with a shared kitchen, bathroom and toilet. It was subject to additional licensing by LB Hammersmith & Fulham.

Ms Aldridge had leased the property to Estate Student Ltd to sub-let the property.. At some point, Estate Student Ltd entered an agreement with DMCK Rooms. The status of DMCK was unclear. It appears to have been managing the property for Estate Student, and had the same registered address.

The tenants had entered ‘licence agreements’ for their rooms, which were counter signed by DMCK, said to be ‘personal agreements’. During the course of the agreement with Ms Aldridge, Estate Student changed its name to Dammack Properties Ltd. It then purported to terminate the agreement, stopped paying rent and stopped responding. It is now in voluntary liquidation.

Ms Aldridge defended on the basis that she as not in control of or managing the property. She was not receiving the ‘rack rent’ for the property as she was receiving less from Estate Student than they were getting in rent from the sub tenants and she had no knowledge of DMCK.

The Tribunal held:

The tribunal accepts the evidence of the respondent that she was unaware of the existence of DMCK Rooms.

The tribunal accepts the arguments of the applicants that the respondent was in receipt of a rack rent for the premises and is in control of the property.

Whilst the respondent does not receive 2/3 of the rent paid by the applicants, the tribunal accepts that more than one rack rent may be paid in connection with a property.

The respondent is the long leaseholder of the property and received rent She is therefore also a person who manages the property.

On the landlord’s ‘reasonable excuse argument:

Although the tribunal accepts that the respondent was not aware of the details of the letting arrangements it has two concerns. First, property owners cannot avoid legal responsibility by failing to engage with the realities of letting arrangements even when they have put intermediaries into place. Second, the evidence demonstrates that the respondent knew that licences would be used in the property and was prepared to allow their use. Clause 7 of the contract with Estates Student Ltd makes this clear. Whilst licences may be appropriate in some circumstances, they are often shams disguising that the reality of the arrangement is a tenancy. They can be indicative of exploitation of people’s ignorance of the law. The use of licences should have alerted the respondent to the need to be vigilant in the legal arrangements for the property. This did not happen.

RRO of the full rent made. The Tribunal had particular concerns about the management of the shared property and the ‘licence agreement’. Ms Aldridge had provided no evidence of her financial position. RRO of £22,532.86 (apportioned) and £300 application fee made.

And then there is brute bestiality, including, for our purposes, illegal eviction

Flat 1, 20-22 Gloucester Place, Brighton BN1 4AA ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT CHI_00ML_HMF_2020_0038 (19 March 2021)

The applicant, Johnathan Jones, applied for an RRO on grounds of lack of licence and illegal eviction. The respondent Rachid Lourradi (also going by Fawzi ) did not respond to the application and did not attend the hearing.

There was a lot of evidence that the applicant had exclusive possession of room 2 at the property. He had been given a tenancy by SB Lets Ltd but there was no tenancy agreement and the landlord was not named. Rachid Lourradi had sent a text demanding the second month’s rent and giving details of a bank account, and SB Lets had referred issues about repairs to ‘Fawzi’ at Rachid Lourradi’s email address.

The respondent had demanded all tenants move out with 4 weeks notice by whatsapp message on 11 November 2019 for works to be done. The applicant refused, citing the legal requirements for terminating his tenancy and reported to the council and police. On 18 December 2019, the respondent changed the locks and left some of the applicant’s belongings in the lobby.

The flat had had at least 5 occupiers during the tenancy. The council had emailed the property owner on 18 November 2019 about making a licence application. An E Barakat replied saying the property was not an HMO and it had been let to Rachid Lourradi for the last two years.

The Tribunal found a) there was an illegal eviction, and b) it was an unlicensed HMO. RRO of the maximum amount of £7200 made.

Flat 2, 94 Belgrave Road, Ilford IG1 3AL ((Housing) Act 2004 and Housing and Planning Act 2016 – Rent repayment orders) [2021] UKFTT LON_00BC_HMF_2020_0060 (18 March 2021)

The applicant. Thomas Lascar-Awolesi, sought an RRO against Mr S Ahmed, the respondent, for illegal eviction and failure to licence.

The applicant had a tenancy of a small room at the property, which had been converted into 7 rooms. He admitted that he was in arrears of rent at the end of the tenancy on 28 April 2019. He asserted that he had been illegally evicted. The applicant went on to say that he accepted that the failure to licence was an honest mistake as there was a selective licence, but not an HMO licence.

The respondent argued that the failure to obtain an HMO licence was a genuine mistake and the applicant had said he was moving out.

The Tribunal found, on licensing and eviction:

We can criticise the landlord to not understanding or knowing the correct regulations pertaining to his property, and the apparently non-professional way in which he approaches his management. It might be prudent for the landlord to take some professional advice in relation to the management of residential properties.

An RRO was made. The landlord was naive and, in part, had made an honest mistake. The award was 50% of rent paid – £1,413 and repayment of fees paid.


If there are common themes here – and there are – then it is ‘rent to rent’ set ups. Our rule of thumb here-abouts is that unless the ‘lease to sub-let’ deal is with a substantial body (Council, housing association, well established and well funded agency), then it is likely to mean dealing with incompetents, shysters, or fraudsters (or all three). The RRO cases here do not do anything to change that view. The lessons are:

i) If you are a property owner, do not enter a ‘rent to rent’ agreement, unless you want to be on the hook for thousands of pounds.

ii) Landlords that enter rent to rent agreements are remarkably lazy and blind to their own interests (assuming they aren’t silently complicit with what is then done).

iii) This ‘licence’ nonsense has to stop. These are not licences, these are tenancies. Those peddling licences are – as above – incompetent, shysters or fraudsters.

But there is a serious legal point at issue in this. The Upper Tribunal decision in Rakusen v Jepson (our note here) that allowed RROs against the superior landlord if they were receiving a rack rent for the property underlies most of these decisions. It is under appeal to the Court of Appeal and due to be heard in July 2021. If anything, many of these cases show why the Housing and Planning Act 2016 changes on RROs make sense if it means going against the superior landlord. It means casually handing over the property to shysters without any check or responsibility is to be avoided and deterred…




Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Alan Armstrong

    The number of RRO cases heard by the First Tier Tribunal seems to be increasing as tenants learn about the ability to claim, but it would be interesting to find out how many receive the award as the ruling is only the start. If the Respondent doesn’t engage in the FTT hearing, then there is little chance of them paying without the Applicant having to work their way through the Small Claims Court etc.

    I wonder if anyone has done any research work to compare how much has been awarded by the FTT against how much the claimants have actually recovered to see if an RRO is a pyrrhic victory.

  2. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    Ah Flintons…….what can I say. Rent 2 Rent scams underpinning so much of RRO work are a scourge, the size of which I’ve never seen in 31 years. The ability to double your rental income, as long as the council dont find out it’s an unlicensed HMO, then blame the tenant. Safer Renting deals with around 200 households a year, the lions share of which involves rent 2 rent scamming and in 99% of the cases, it isnt the “Tenant” acting alone. The property owner and agent(s) all being in on the extra profits.

  3. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    We do RROs all the time Alan and I can only recall one case where the landlord just paid up. In one week earlier this year we had to freeze the bank accounts of two separate respondents. In one case there was sufficient money in the account to secure the award, in the other there wasnt. The journey from award to payment takes just as much time and resolve as the journey from application to award

  4. Alan Armstrong

    It seems the legislation only does half the job, I can only assume that the Government when it wrote the legislation was under the impression that the respondent would just hold up their hands and say ‘it’s a fair cop, you got me bang to rights. Here is the money’.

    I wonder how many applicants get what they think is an award from the FTT and sit back waiting for it to be paid to them, only to realise it isn’t going to happen and just give up.

    It is a shame the FTT don’t have the power to collect the monies from the Respondent and then pass it to the Applicant.

    Is it the same in a Civil Court where damages are awarded or the Small Claims Court ? The Court confirms/gives the award but leaves it up to the recipient to follow it through by getting Charging Orders, then bailiff etc.

    To my mind, extrapolating from what Ben said..

    1st Rogues Opportunity – Hope the Local Authority doesn’t catch you
    2nd Rogues Opportunity – Hope the tenant or LA don’t go the the FTT
    3rd Rogues Opportunity – Hope the FTT find an excuse to reduce the original fine/RRO
    4th Rogues Opportunity – Hope that the Applicant can’t afford to take their successful claim all the way through the Debt Recovery process
    5th Rogues Opportunity – Hope all the claims are against the company that was recently liquidated.

  5. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    I hadnt looked at it like that Alan but spot on analysis. To be honest we do a lot of out of court settlements on RROs, which often work better. You get the money before you pull the application. They are necessarily less than 100% but often the claimant just wants it settled

  6. archie maddan

    All of these decisions seem correct and justified, except for the finding in the 58 Selkirk Road case that the respondent was a person managing. The finding that she was in control is probably correct since she did receive a rack rent, but the finding that she was also managing is problematic and not properly explained in the decision. it is apparent from the facts of the case that she received rent from a type of rent to rent company not directly from the occupants themselves which has, in my experience, been the understood requirement for a person managing under section 263(3), the rent to rent company were not the respondent’s agent but had their own interest in the property under a separate tenancy form the respondent. The arguments made about the repairing obligations etc cannot change the fact that the respondent received rent from the rent to rent company and not the actual occupants of the premises. “Person managing” is a defined term of legal art and has no relationship to the everyday meaning of a person with the right or ability to manage, which seems to have been the argument made by the applicants; a red herring but an understandable one by the lay person.

    I accept that this has always been a bit of a grey area since the words used in section 263(3) can be read either to mean actual physical occupants (by reference to the section 262(6) definition of “occupier”) or to mean more broadly a person or persons who “occupy” an interest in the property; courts and tribunals have however always preferred the first interpretation of the wording of section 263(3) and excluded superior landlords form being persons managing under section 263(3).

    If this has now changed then it is important, indeed very important since it imposes the full responsibility of compliance with the management regulations upon all superior landlords, which is to say the least a new development and something that all those with interests in rented HMOs should now be made aware of.

    • Giles Peaker

      The application in 58 Selkirk Road was against the immediate (R22R) landlord, and that is who the finding is made against?

      The decision does not say that the owner/superior landlord could be considered to be managing, just could also be a person having control.

  7. archie maddan

    You are quite correct!!

    I meant 30 Phipps House, I referred to the wrong case. The 30 Phipps ouse case is the one where the RRO claim is against the superior landlord who had rented to a rent to rent intermediary company.

    • Giles Peaker

      Ah! Yes, the finding on management in that one is both cursory and unsupported by previous decisions. It wouldn’t make a difference to the outcome, but I’d agree it is arguably wrong.

  8. archie maddan

    Yes, there was no need to make a finding about managing since being in control was sufficient. The finding on management was, as you say, not supported by any proper analysis of the test in the act and certainly looks wrong.

  9. Al Mcclenahan

    I believe I provided Representation for the Applicant tenants on 3 of these cases. All of which ended up with 100% of the rent applied for being awarded, as well as the Tribunal fees.

    It seems to me that if you choose to argue that you are not responsible for the breaches of law in a property you are in control of, and your defence is that you had no idea what was going on in your property, the Tribunal has a dim view of your conduct if this is not found to be a reasonable excuse. The Phipps house case in particular involved landlords who received rent for a period of over 2 years, then visited the property for the first time during the duration of the contract in fairly short order… but only once the R2R agency stopped paying their rent.

    These always seem to be the cases that go to Tribunal, as the landlord is adamant that they knew nothing about it, therefore they can’t be responsible. Unless they get representation that has their best financial interests at heart, it is very difficult for them to understand that the law is currently structured so that you are responsible for the properties you receive money from. The Phipps House case was subsequently subject to a landlord appeal, which was denied.

    I’ve done a teach-ins for MHCLG on Rent-2-Rent, as an understanding of the financial fundamentals that underpin it make it clear it is only going to continue to explode. I’ve also done training at local authority landlord forums to get landlords to understand:
    -What Rent-2-Rent is
    -Why it’s a bad idea for them financially
    -How to spot it and prevent getting involved in it

    We also do some proactive work for local authorities to uncover unlicensed properties, which brings these properties into the council’s licensing schemes, usually with the effect of driving away the Rent-2-Rent agency.

    I think RROs and licensing have a real ability to break this business model, or at least stop it’s rampant spread across the bottom of the PRS. It seems like it used to be the bottom 5%, now it’s far higher and grows each year.

    I agree with you Giles, if our Rakusen precedent is overturned, it will be carte blanche for Rent-2-Rent and the landlords who give their properties. The only option for tenants who have experienced some of the worst conditions and treatment will be to take action against a Rent-2-Rent agency that will phoenix rather than pay any debt. We will also see landlords set up their own Rent-2-Rent agencies which hold no assets to shield their property assets, which subvert the purpose of the legislation and remove significant protections for tenants.

    Alasdair Mcclenahan
    Justice For Tenants

  10. Jim Shepherd

    The FTT is to a certain extent finding its way on these cases . It is definitely one of the growing areas of our work. To some degree RROs fill in for the fact that there is not a national landlord licensing scheme as in Wales. From memory the heading to the relevant part of the Act is Rogue Landlords. It is fair to say that some of the applications received relate to landlords that do not fit that category. We have to be careful to confine ourselves to the offence alleged and the criminal standard of proof. Failure to license is easier than harassment for obvious reasons.
    This is a great summary of the recent cases. Thanks Giles
    Jim S

  11. Archie Maddan

    I’m surprised these days if a London case comes to me which doesn’t have some element of rent to rent/ “guaranteed rent”/ “lead tenant” sub-letting or some other variation of sub-letting. I’ve seen cases with four levels of “landlords” all gouging a percentage of the rent paid by the actual occupants and usually describing themselves as anything but “landlord”

    The situation has created problems for tenants and honest property owners all of whom tend to rely upon what they are told by letting agents or rent to rent operators. tenants can’t get proper responses from the landlords and honest, often innocent, property owners find themselves in huge legal and financial messes having handed day to day control of their properties over thinking that it is okay for them to take a back seat.

    It is a huge mess but I don’t honestly see any motivation by this government to address it and make things clearer.

  12. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    Echo that Archie. Safer Renting deals with around 200 households experiencing harassment and illegal eviction each year and the vast majority involve some sort of rent to rent shenanigans, with multiple layers of agents and chains of responsibility, all creat7ng smoke screens about who the landlord actually. When the property is identified everyone blames everyone else but it has to be said, that in most cases we find, in subsequent investigations, that the owner is part of the scam as well. The lead tenant/Mesne tenant, who gets the finger of blame, often works for the agency and runs other properties elsewhere

  13. Sabine

    I saw a big billboard in the centre of Lewisham yesterday, advertising the services of a “guaranteed rent” company. Guess putting that up wasn’t cheap – clearly worth spending the money as it will bring in more. Definitely a step up from taping notices to lamppost or tying them to fences with cable ties.

  14. Wasim Amar

    Hi Al, i agree with your point that tenants safety is of utmost importance and living in an unlicensed hmo would endanger this safety. There are many ways of going about this, and yes hitting the landlords does make sense if it will reduce this rfr, and it seems you feel even if they are innocent they have it coming.. However if the aim really was to ensure safey of tenants shouldnt there be some educating of tenants to check if the hmo is licensed, details on how to do this could be added to the tenants handbook and would be very simple.. It takes no more than 15 minutes to do the search, however it seems that would be too easy and fix the issue means no big claims for money but would lead to the tenants lives not being endangered.. Why is this also not being encouraged, makes no sense if truly what you are doing is ensuring safety for tenants.. I know of a landlord who is 74 years old, has very limited english and is completely illiterate who wanted to add some money to his pension by renting out his house and moving into a small flat.. He gave it to an agent he is now being hounded by tenants for over £30,000 which is why i have been researching to help him and came across this page.. The tenants are all post grad students so not illiterate and it could be said easily could have checked if the hmo was licensed..They seem to be enjoying agressively hitting him with letters that he they will put charges against his house and he has to pay them, I am sure you will probably be representing them soon as he does not have the cash to give to them and so will be dragged through tribunal..

    • Giles Peaker

      I think you are basically saying all landlords should have to be licensed, so tenants can check. if so, I’d agree. And that should include property owners, not just direct landlords.

  15. Wasim Amar

    Yep, that is a much better way to stop this kind of thing. To me it seems that letting the tenants live in unsafe environments to then claim an rro is what is being prescribed above. I dont personally have property i can rent out, just trying to help a vulnerable person who Al above seems to think should be punished for the greater good, rather than a simple solution which I dont agree with.. Interestingly a lot of the rro cases i have been looking through as research seem to be in london where each property has to be licensed, even where it doesnt most councils have a searchable list of hmo so again could be checked. Would be a much simpler solution and more likely to work and also mean tenants dont have to put their lives at risk to then claim back rent. Sometimes the solution is very simple, and this just involves ensuring good searchable registeration of hmo properties (which already exists in most places) and simple education for tenants.. I know if my childs life was being put at risk i would rather be proactive to stop it happening than be reactive and claim back money to compensate for having had his/her life put at risk for a period of time. Anyway i am going back to help this elderly man who sadly is suicidal because of this and I believe doesn’t deserve this, he is deafinitely not getting a rack rent it seems and the intent of his rent for rent contract is that he is leasing out and getting a fixed price but not sure how solid it is.

    • Giles Peaker

      No, no – licensing is the landlord’s obligation. You can’t make it the tenants’ obligation to check – and in any event, that wouldn’t stop the property being let out, unlicensed, to another group of tenants.

      If the owner is receiving a rent from the rent to rent tenant, they are getting a rack rent. Court of Appeal to consider all of this in July.

  16. Wasim Amar

    are you saying if the owner is getting any rent or does it have to be 2/3 of market rent? my point is as we have loads of these dodgy landlords/agents would i just be fine with my child not checking if the property they will live in is safe and think “oh, dont check thats the landlords fault lets put your life at risk and we can also get an rro”. some of these unlicensed hmo’s would lead to deaths and i personally are not comfortable putting peoples lives at risk with the view that oh they will get a rro later.

    • Giles Peaker

      If the owner gets a market rent. This does not have to be the market rent for which the rent to rent set up subsequently let it out for. See this FTT decision, for example.

      But as I said, the Court of Appeal are hearing an appeal on this issue in July.

      RRO offences are not just about safety of the property. They are about failures of professional standards by landlords, so include, for example, failure to licence where required, failure to comply with HMO management regulations, illegal eviction and harassment.

      The only person putting lives at risk in your scenario is the landlord.

  17. Al Mcclenahan

    Hi Wasim,

    A large part of the work that JFT does is to educate landlords about licensing and how and why to avoid Rent-2-Rent situations.

    It is an unfortunate reality that every frontline advisor has spoken to someone who has lost a child, sibling, partner or friend to a fire in an unlicensed HMO which lacked fire safety features. I assure you that none of those occupants were aware they were living in an unlicensed property and had no idea what HMO licensing even is; and they never will.

    Too often this is just seen as a financial issue, generating more rental revenue and having to pay that rent back. At the sharp end of these arrangements you have tenants who suffer physical health conditions due to mold, mental health conditions due to the stress and anxiety of the living situation or the lack of security felt by dangerous co-tenants in overcrowded conditions without appropriate management from a Rent-2-Rent company.

    Tenants cannot be expected to know about HMO licensing, landlords are legally obligated to be aware of it. The government has produced a small how-to-rent guide which covers the legal obligations of a landlord and is required to be given to tenants and complied with by landlords. Licensing is part of this guidance.

    None of the thousands of tenants Justice For Tenants has represented has known about a licensing breach, then decided to move into a property to take advantage of this. It is usually the case that the council have inspected the property and advised tenants of their rights, or they have been referred by a council or law centre or deposit scheme after they have had issues with their Rent-2-Rent company/landlord over lack of repairs, failure to protect a deposit, or improper management practices.

    If a landlord has mitigating circumstances, the Tribunal; must take this into account. In this way, the system addresses specific, understandable cases. However, the 2016 Act hardened this legislation. If a landlord wishes to make money from providing a basic human need, then there are minimum legal standards they have to comply with. If they give their property to a 3rd party, they have to ensure that 3rd complies with the requirements.

    It is not clear to me where there is any evidence of tenants wanting to live in unsafe, poorly managed properties with an intention of applying for an RRO. The tenants who tend to be eligible for RROs are the economically and socially disadvantaged:
    -Students new to renting and lacking life experience
    -New migrants to the country who don’t speak English and don’t understand their rights. Who have no recourse to public funds or support network, so are an unlawful eviction away from true homelessness in a foreign country
    -People who, due to their financial situation, are forced to rent a room in a shared house or flat with strangers

    These are not masterminds, these are people who need protection and are all too often exploited by landlords and/or Rent-2-Rent companies.

    A 2-bed flat in Tower Hamlets with a living room may have a market rent of £1,400 when let as one unit. A landlord can get £1,600 guaranteed with no voids and no maintenance hassle or cost with a Rent-2-Rent company. The Rent-2-Rent company can subdivide the living room to make 4 bedrooms, let it to 2 individuals and 2 couples, shove the bills into former tenants names and generate £3,200+ of income from the property. There are vast sums to be made by the various stakeholders, but it is at the expense of the exploitation of those forced to live in these conditions, which are far below the minimum legal standards.

    In an ideal world, the Rent-2-Rent company would bear a significant brunt of the penalty. However, they tend to operate outside of the law and be unreachable via enforcement. There is nothing stopping a property owner seeking recompense from their Rent-2-Rent company after the fact.

    I share your perspective that it is relatively easy for someone to check whether the property is in compliance with licensing requirements and it is important to ensure tenants have safe, habitable properties to live in. Where I don’t share your perspective is the leap that it’s appropriate for tenants to be responsible for this, when they don’t choose to be renters – everyone needs somewhere to live. A landlord can sell a property or choose to rent it – if they choose to rent it they must comply with the legal requirements. If they do not want to have to do this, a well-known, reputable letting agent may be a good choice.

    The licensing requirements are in the government guidance and the how-to-rent book that is required to be given to all tenants by law. The sad reality is that tenants can’t possibly be aware of this if the landlord doesn’t ensure that they are given this booklet. The legislation may seem harsh, but suffering and loss of life that is caused by the circumvention of landlord-tenant law is horrific and inexcusable.

    Landlords who have fallen foul of HMO licensing and had an RRO against them never seem to consider that if tenants died in their property, they would be facing the possibility of a jail term as lack of licensing and fire-safety requirements is a criminal offence. That has been the case in the properties where people have died.

    The number 1 priority for all landlords should be to make sure they are providing a safe, legal, habitable property for their tenants, up to at least the minimum legal standards required. The second priority should be profit. If this were the approach used, there would be limited need for organisations such as Justice For Tenants and law centres – that would be a rather wonderful state of affairs.

  18. Wasim Amar

    Hi Al, thanks for your detailed response.. maybe i am not getting my point across well.. I agree the landlord is repsonsible and should be for ensuring their property is licensed and accountable for this, my point is that tenants should be made aware they can check licensing as i think a lot of them would.. There should be no obligation on them doing this, and as you say most wouldnt.


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