On 16 August 2019 the First Tier Tribunal issued a landlord with a 5-year banning order.
There was a long interaction between the landlord and local authority who applied for both a banning order and rent repayment order. For the purposes of this post we will concentrate on the banning order.
The landlord had been renting out a number of properties in Telford over a 10 year period and had the following criminal convictions:
- 9 March 2017 conviction under the Protection for Eviction Act 1977. The landlord was convicted of 2 offences under the 1977 Act. He entered a property and made threats to one of his tenants demanding that he vacated the property on 2 November 2015. He took the tenant’s keys and evicted him on 2 November 2015 and also refused to return some of his belongings. He was sentenced to a Community Order with unpaid work requirement of 200 hours and was also made the subject of a Restraining Order.
- 18 February 2019 he pleaded guilty to an offence that between 5 June 2018 and 19 September 2018 he had control of or managed an HMO which was required to be licensed, but which was not so licensed. The Landlord was fined £284 and ordered to pay costs of £410 and a surcharge to fund victim services in the sum of £30.
Ordinarily the tribunal would disregard the conviction under the 1977 Act however, because the landlord was convicted of a further offence within 2 years, they were at liberty to take account of it in this particular case.
When deciding to issue a banning order the Tribunal took the following into account:
- The landlord committed the HMO breach deliberately. He was well aware of his HMO obligations when as far back as 2015 he reduced the number of tenants in a particular property from 5 to 4 following communications with the local authority.
- The landlord was refused a HMO license because the local authority did not consider him to be a fit and proper person.
- The landlord has previous convictions namely under the 1977 Act which demonstrates a pattern of offending by deliberately flouting his legal obligations as a landlord and harassing his tenants. In this particular case the landlord showed no remorse for his offending describing the incident as “a domestic”.
- The landlord did not work and relied on the income he received from his tenants to manage his and his family’s financial affairs. Unfortunately, when asked to explain his financial dependence the landlord’s vagueness which the Tribunal did not find helpful.
- The landlord had not issued his tenants with Assured Shorthold Tenancies but Licences to Occupy which the Tribunal believed was a deliberate attempt to mislead his tenants as to their legal rights and security of tenure.
- On the morning of the hearing the Tribunal inspected the Landlord’s property. They found 4 bedrooms occupied with a further 3 unoccupied bedrooms which contained beds and other furniture which could be occupied at short notice thus flouting the HMO Regulations. Such a breach of the Regulations could in the Tribunal’s opinion pose a real risk that the landlord will harass and evict other tenants.
- The risk of harm should the landlord be permitted to continue renting his properties is significant because his tenants are vulnerable. The landlord appears to have had tenants who were homeless, assaulted or recovering from broken relationships. The Tribunal was particularly concerned by the fact that the landlord had been advised that the tenant he unlawfully evicted was selling cocaine from his room. Despite this, the landlord elected not to inform the police but to force his tenant to chase up his Housing Benefit using the landlord’s telephone on loudspeaker so that he could listen to the call.
Having deliberated on the above facts the Tribunal found that the landlord fell within the category of “the most serious offenders” and exercised their discretion in making a five-year banning order on particular terms pursuant to the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
This is the first banning order case that we have come across since the Regulations came into force. It is unlikely to be the last. What appears to be evident is that the Tribunal was persuaded to issue the banning order in this particular case because of the landlord’s conduct and response to the proceedings. The landlord had a vast amount of experience in the private rental sector and was likely to be aware of his obligations but appeared to have ignored them.
It is likely that banning orders will start to become more common going forward. There may not be a large number of landlords banned but it is inevitable that there will be a steady flow of cases.
The contents of this blog post is not legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If legal advice is needed readers should contact a solicitor. No responsibility for any information contained within this post is accepted and PainSmith solicitors accepts no liability in respect of the contents or for action taken based on this post.