Ben Leonard, a postgraduate student, and his four housemates found out their home didn’t have an HMO licence when their landlord applied to Leeds City Council for one halfway through the tenancy.
A HMO must be held by any home occupied by three or more unrelated people who share communal facilities, with at least one tenant paying rent. It confirms the house has the correct safety certificates, that fire alarms are present and working and whoever is in charge of the property is qualified. It also confirms that the landlord does not have a criminal record.
Landlords who don’t have a HMO face fines of up to £30,000, including repaying up to 12 months of rent to their tenants, via a rent repayment order (RRO), which is what happened to Leonard’s landlord.
A housing officer from Leeds City Council informed the tenants that the council was taking action against landlord and explained that they were entitled to seek an RRO.
The tenants made their application, which included evidence of paying rent, bank statements and the tenancy agreement, which was accepted and the landlord was taken to court. He pleaded guilty and, after bills were deducted from the amount owed, as well as a further deduction due to the landlord’s financial situation, each tenant was owed around £2,000.
After winning the case, Leonard told the BBC he received an “incredible” response on Twitter earlier this month. He was inundated with messages from other tenants who felt their landlords might have cases to answer.
The case coincides with the government’s announcement two weeks ago that they plan to repeal Section 21 of the Housing Act (1988), which allows landlords to evict tenants at the end of their fixed-term, and put an end to ‘no-fault’ evictions.
The change in the law would, the government said, “protect tenants from having to make frequent and short notice moves, and will enable them to plan for the future.”