Poonam Pattni Successfully Resists Appeal Against Penalty For Unlicensed HMO
Published on 15/03/2023
Houses in multiple occupation (“HMOs”) are required to be licensed under the Housing Act 2004. When a landlord fails to licence an HMO, one of the methods a local authority can use for enforcement is a civil financial penalty. This method of enforcement allows local authorities to apply their own policies, which will not usually be challenged.
In the case of 1 Hexham Road, the landlord had received a financial penalty notice in excess of £20,000; they decided to appeal the local authorities’ decision. The landlord asserted that they had the defence of a reasonable excuse because their tenants were engaging in unlawful subletting: the landlord had not given permission for the property to be used as an HMO.
At the hearing in the First Tier Property Tribunal, the tenants gave a consistent account that they each paid the landlord rent and were not engaged in any unlawful subletting. Acting for the local authority, Poonam Pattni cross-examined the landlord about payments from each tenant to the landlord’s bank accounts as well as pictures taken by the tenants of the landlord counting money in cash inside the property.
Reaching their decision, the Tribunal was satisfied that the local authority had properly identified 1 Hexham Road as an HMO. Considering the consistent evidence of the tenants, the Tribunal found that the landlord’s explanation was not properly cogent and at times incredible. They found that it was the landlord who was lying, and that the landlord was liable to pay the fine imposed by the local authority.
This case highlights the importance of thorough and well-documented investigations into unlicensed HMOs. The local authority was able to clearly and cogently explain their decision in imposing a financial penalty notice on the landlord, which assisted the Tribunal greatly. A fair and objective approach will be the most persuasive, especially when a landlord fails to provide any credible explanation.
13th March 2023