Student wins 12 months’ rent back after court battle against landlord

A rogue landlord has lost a legal battle against his former student tenant.

Meg Cole

The university student, Meg Cole, from Cardiff, took her landlord to court after discovering he was operating illegally.

She was living in an eight-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO) in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham while studying at the university.

Cole and her housemates found a number of issues with the house right from the beginning when they moved in, in July 2019.

There were a number of notes, which previous tenants had hidden around the home warning of the landlord’s “rogue behaviour” and problems with the property, including ants’ nests and  mould in bedrooms.

Cole said: “It wasn’t fun at all living in the house. The pandemic meant most of us only lived there between September and March but in that six-month period we had so much dodgy stuff happen.”

The tenants later discovered that the property they were living in did not have an HMO license.

Cole and her housemates reported the issue to Birmingham City Council, who then carried out an assessment of the house. They found that one of the living room walls was around 90% damp.

Birmingham City Council advised the tenants that they could apply for a Rent Repayment Order (RRO) and that they can claim back a maximum of 12 months’ rent.

Going through this process inspired Cole to write her dissertation on her experiences and research on housing policy.

She commented: “I’m a bit of nerd when it comes to academic research. There’s a lot on social housing and homelessness but not HMO housing and the private rental sector so I realised there was a research gap that could be explored and expanded upon.

“There seems to be an acceptance that rented housing is poor quality and we have to live with it.”

A spokesperson from the National Residential Landlords Association told the press: “Landlords have a clear responsibility to provide safe homes for renters. Addressing the problem of rogue landlords is a necessary step towards the building of a private rented sector which is fair and works for all.

“Local authorities have a range of powers at their disposal to address sub-standard accommodation, including civil penalties, the serving of improvement notices and taking over the management of properties.

“In our view these powers need to be used effectively so that criminal operators who bring the wider landlord community into disrepute can be dealt with in the appropriate way.”

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13 Comments

  1. Ostrich17

    Well done to the tenants for claiming back £36k.

     

    What about the Agents letting this property? They surely knew how bad it was? They proudly display the NRLA logo on their website.

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  2. paulgbar666

    As far as I am aware no LL has ever been able to force a tenant to sign a tenancy agreement.   If a letting is of low or poor quality then who forces the idiot tenants to take on that property!?   Surely tenants consider a LL offer and if of low or poor quality they don’t bother renting the respective letting property.   If the LL has such a poor offer presumably he will eventually be bankrupted if he cannot persuade any tenants to sign a TA for his poor letting offer.   The imperative for a LL hoping to make money is surely to have a compelling offer such that it persuades tenants to sign a TA.     If after signing the TA the LL refuses to address repair issues that is a different matter.   LL are obligated to provide what the rent is charged for.   Tenants may soon damage a LL by refusing to continue renting citing disrepair issues. Tenants can walk away from a tenancy anytime they like if the renting proposition is not provided properly by the LL.   Few LL would wish to lose rent paying tenants and usually fix things to make sure the tenants wish to stay. It is tenants that keep dodgy LL in business.   Stop using them and then LL will be forced to improve their offer or have no business. The power is all with the tenant and rightly so. The LL offers to treat with his rental property. No tenant has to take that offer if they don’t like it! It is no good a tenant complaining that they had to take a low quality offer because there was nothing else. The tenant still made the choice to rent a low quality offer.   They can hardly then moan that the letting offer they took up is low quality. The LL didn’t force them to take up the offer.      
     
    The other matter of the rental property not being licenced.
     
    Did this idiot Uni student not think to phone the local council and ask scuse me mister we are just about to rent an 8 bed house.
    Does it need a licence?
     
    Oh! It does well let me advise you it doesn’t have one.
     
    I suppose we had better not rent an illegal letting property then!!!     
     
    The Council will then visit the illegal letting property to ensure the LL licences appropriately.
     
    These idiot students are supposed to be the cream of the crop.
    Yet they can’t even work out the basics of life.
    Licensing is pretty complex so why not just phone the local council to see if a letting prospect requires one!?
     
    How hard can it be to work that out!?

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    1. Squishy Agent

      Unless you’re an experienced tenant, you’re not going to be aware of HMO law. Students are going to only be concerned with getting a roof over their head during their studies, they’re not going to come in with surveyor knowledge about damp, ventilation, infestations etc.

      Your insistence that they’re idiots is redundant, it’s not their responsibility to obtain a valid HMO license so they don’t really need to have a working knowledge, but I agree they should have some understanding. I assume the landlord did not use an agent (i know many years ago when i was a student, landlords were recommended by other students, or they advertised their properties themselves on Gumtree etc), so unfortunately tenants would miss that middle-man who could have checked the license beforehand.

      The landlord is evidently the real idiot here, not the tenants.

       

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      1. paulgbar666

        Due Diligence

        This is something everyone has a responsibility for anything they are contracting to buy…………such as an accommodation service from a LL.

         

        Granted the LL was indeed a complete and utter idiot.

         

        But that doesn’t absolve the Uni Student from DD.

        I believe there is such a thing as the NUS.

         

        I’m sure they have a website which I’m sure must mention something about HMO Licensing.

         

        No this idiot student is typical of the useless snowflakes that our Unis are stupidly producing.

         

        Her stupid dissertation doesn’t account for useless snowflakes like her.

         

        Yes the LA was in the wrong as was the LL.

         

        But come on one quick call to the Council.

         

        Does this 8 bed property require a licence?

         

        One presumes that with the advent of the compulsory property redress scheme that ALL LL will have to join will catch out those LL who don’t have a required Licence.

        Though with Additional Licencing Councils would have to check beds every morning to to ascertain whether the 3 occupiers were one couple and one unrelated single!!

         

        There is no lack of information that is available to these idiot snowflake students.

        All accessible on their mobiles.

         

        However some students are savvy.

         

        So find a mug LL who they know should be licensed.

         

        Give it a year.

        Complain to Council

         

        Obtain RRO……………………Result!

        Dopey unlicensed LL will need to be aware that not all students are stupid.

        They will actively hunt for the dopey illegal unlicensed LL for eventual RRO.

         

        I say good luck to those savvy students.

         

         

         

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    2. jan - byers

      Did this idiot Uni student not think to phone the local council and ask scuse me mister we are just about to rent an 8 bed house.Does it need a licence?

      I doubt many students leaving home for the 1st time have even heard of an HMO

       

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      1. paulgbar666

        It will be term they come across when looking for rental accommodation. The NUS which they all join has plenty of information.   Just because you are a snowflake doesn’t mean you can’t do some DD on student accommodation requirements.   I’m sure the NUS has checklists as well as their Uni.   At 18 these idiots are supposedly adults able to vote FFS.   Hopefully they have the brain cells to phone the Council to check if a licence is needed which may not even be a HMO licence. Not carrying out DD is NO excuse.    

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        1. GeeBee

          You have very strong comments but very little knowledge of the student property market. First-time students will be renting their properties in November to move into the following summer, and their first year at uni to start in September, so they have some access but not much when going to rent their first property.  In addition to this, it is often very difficult to see the true condition of a property when you have 8 students living in it and often covering up the underlying problems.

          These are young vulnerable people starting out in life, their first time away from home.  Landlords have a duty of care to ensure their properties are safe and habitable, Agents have a duty of care to educate both the landlords and the tenants.  Tenants have a duty of care to act in a tenant-like manner and report maintenance jobs which they did!

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    3. Mothers Ruin

      Considering the fact that it wasn’t the students breaking the law and it was the students who managed to get 12 months rent back I think your superfluous use of the word ‘idiot’ is misdirected to be fair!

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      1. jan - byers

        LOL

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  3. AcornsRNuts

    Paul, desperate people accept less than perfect living conditions. Many years ago I had a set of tenants wanting a property IF the landlord did certain works. I was not confident that those works would be completed even though I added a clause into the AST. One of the parents was there and picked up on the very heavy hints I was dropping. My employer at the time knew the works would not get done from many years experience with the landlord, but we had to tread carefully.

    It is not simply a case of black and white.

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  4. Chip Wiffler

    Pretty unbelievable comments, Paul – referring to the students as ‘idiots’ reflects badly on you as a landlord if it’s your true opinion.  The responsibility for the property condition, licensing, compliance is ALL that of the landlord.  A tenant shouldn’t have to do high levels of research to ensure that the most basic of standards are being adhered to.

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    1. paulgbar666

      Of course you are totally correct thay ideally NO tenant should have to check these things.

       

      But hey this is the real world.

      Criminal LL abound that is just a fact.

       

      DD must be carried out by tenants if they wish to avoid such criminal LL.

      Just as LL reference tenants so should tenants of LL.

       

      But ultimately it has been the criminal LL loss.

      The RRO could put this criminal LL out of business which would be justice.

      It should be the case that no LL apart from lodger LL should be able to do business without a LL licence or a property licence.

       

      Unfortunately Govt isn’t minded to introduce a National LL licensing scheme with CPD requirements a bit like RSW.

       

      Although the soon to be introduced Property Redress Scheme should effectively become such a quasi licensing scheme.

      Until this publicly checkable register is rolled out tenants have to be on their guard

       

      Any tenant who doesn’t carry out DD on a prospective LL is an idiot.

       

      Trust but verify!!

       

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  5. jan - byers

     

    “But hey this is the real world.”

    Hey the real world is that the LL had to pay the rent back for renting an illegal property.  In the real world there are laws that if not complied with will have a sanction.

    “DD must be carried out by tenants if they wish to avoid such criminal LL.”

    As others have stated it in not the tenants duty to ensure a property is legal.  If it is illegal they can go to court as in this case.

    “Any tenant who doesn’t carry out DD on a prospective LL is an idiot.”

    Any LL who rents an illegal property and has to pay the rent back is an idiot.

     

     

     

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