Rent repayment orders for multiple offences committed by ‘rogue’ landlords

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Rogue landlords who knowingly let unsafe or substandard accommodation to tenants are fortunately rare but nothing new. However, the ability of tenants facing this situation to obtain remedy is a more recent phenomenon. This has been underlined by the case of Ficcara & Others v James [2021], in which the tenants concerned sought to determine whether a range of offences committed by a landlord in relation to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 should result in multiple rent repayment orders being granted.

Among other areas of focus, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 promotes the reform of housing management, including measures to tackle rogue landlords. Tenants awareness of the protection afforded them by this legislation continues to grow. One remedy available is to seek a rent repayment order if they believe an offence has been committed by their landlord regarding the management of the property.

An application for a rent repayment order can be made under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to the First-tier Tribunal (FtT) and this may be granted if the FtT is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a landlord has committed any of the offences listed within the legislation.

In the case of Ficcara & Others v James [2021], the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) ruled that multiple rent repayment orders were permissible after the FtT that originally considered the application awarded granted only one order covering three offences committed by landlord involved. The offences were:

  • Failure to holding a licence for houses in multiple occupation (HMO)
  • Committing acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the appellants with intent to cause them to give up the occupation of the flat or to refrain from exercising rights or pursuing remedies in respect of it
  • Unlawfully depriving the tenants of their occupation of the flat without reasonable cause to believe that they had ceased to reside there – by changing the locks and depriving them access.

The Upper Tribunal also considered how multiple offences across overlapping periods should be treated and ruled that 12 months’ rent is the maximum period for which a landlord can be ordered to repay on a rent repayment order application, irrespective of the number, timing or duration of the offences committed.

With a number of similar appeals pending, this decision is likely to have to have significant and lasting implications for tenants and landlords alike.