A landlord who tried to evade licensing his HMO by claiming relatives were living in the property has been handed a significant rent repayment order.
Ali Mohamed was ordered to pay back £10,800 to two tenants living at his five-bedroom HMO at 16, Cornwall Gardens in Willesden, North London, who were paying £900 a month in rent.
He had claimed they were no more than lodgers or licensees before an inspection by Brent Council in August 2019 because the property was a family home occupied by his daughter and son-in-law. He thought this meant it was exempt from the need to have an HMO licence but applied and was granted one once he realised.
A First-Tier Property Tribunal ruled that as the tenants had assured shorthold tenancy (AST) agreements and he had protected their deposit using an approved scheme – and because six people were living in three separate households – the property was an HMO.
It said Mr Mohammed was a professional landlord with 30 years’ experience who knew the rules and regulations, but admitted he found it difficult to keep up to date with them. His three other properties in the Brent area were also unlicenced.
The Tribunal ruled: “Given the respondent’s acknowledged experience and expertise as a professional landlord of many years, the only reasonable inference to be drawn from his conduct is that he either had a blatant disregard for the legal requirement to obtain an HMO for this and his other properties or was reckless about that matter.”
Giles Peaker, housing solicitor at Anthony Gold, adds: “Alas for Mr Mohamed, the Tribunal quite rightly found that occupation by his daughter and son-in-law did not make him a residential landlord, nor was his daughter. The other occupants had ASTs and the property was indeed a licenceable HMO throughout the period.”
Read more about rent repayment orders.