A disgruntled landlord has convinced a judge to have his rent repayment order case re-heard after arguing that council systems hindered his ability to apply for an HMO licence during the pandemic.
Paul Fashade was told to pay three tenants a total of �11,230 by a First Tier Property Tribunal (FTT) which ruled he had no excuse for renting out an unlicensed HMO in Devonshire Road, Lewisham, between August 2020 and January 2022.
Fashade argued that the original ruling was unfair because he couldn't renew his expired licence due to technical issues with Lewisham Council's online systems.
He claimed that emails and phone calls from both him and his managing agent had gone unanswered, and believed receiving automated responses meant that they would eventually contact him.
At an Upper Tribunal, the judge said the FTT had taken no account of Fashade's or the managing agent's efforts because he was unable to provide copies of his emails, and then awarded the maximum amount possible.
In relation to the RRO amounts, the judge said: 'The FTT might have considered that a landlord who made repeated but unsuccessful attempts to obtain a licence, both by his own efforts and by instructing his agent, was less culpable than a landlord who ignored his obligations and wilfully failed to obtain a licence.'�
The judge recommended that the RRO awarded to two of his tenants should be reduced because the licence application had already been made before the end of their tenancy. He remitted a decision on the RROs to another property tribunal.
JMW property lawyer David Smith says: 'You have to show you've tried to apply again and again throughout the whole period, by every means possible, using every portal and by filling in forms, and to keep documenting that.
'The offence is operating without a licence - it's up to you to prove you have a reasonable excuse and it's a tough defence.'�
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