A landlord who blamed his letting agent for mistakenly telling him his property wasn’t an HMO has been slapped with a £19,350 Rent Repayment Order.

Joshua Conway sought advice from high street agent Elli G Estates about his property in Shirehall Close, Barnet (pictured, below), where four former tenants shared three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom between September 2018 and September 2019, a First Tier Property Tribunal heard.

When informed in July 2019 that it needed a licence, he applied for an exemption notice by telling Barnet Council he would soon be moving back in.

The tribunal judge said that a landlord’s reliance on an agent would rarely give rise to a defence of reasonable excuse.

During the hearing, it was discovered Conway had been named in an article in The Times as a director of Vale Investment (Management), where tenants had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get the property agency to repair a leaking roof.

Conway claimed he was not involved in property management, which the tribunal disputed.

It ruled that the professional landlord, who has one other rental property, should not have taken advice from the agent and that he had a better knowledge of property management than he was admitting to.

Giles Peaker (pictured), a partner at Anthony Gold, says it’s increasingly clear that attempts to rely on it being ‘someone else’s job’ to tell the landlord they have a licensable HMO, will fail.

He tells LandlordZONE: “For blaming the letting agents to have any real prospect of success as a reasonable excuse defence, I think it’s right that there would need to be a clear and explicit duty on the agent to inform the landlord of licensing requirements set out in the agent’s contract with the landlord. Even then, it may not work, as it is still the landlord’s responsibility.”


  1. This idiot LL failed to understand that as the LL it is he that is legally liable for EVERYTHING!!

    Just because the LL chose to engage an unregulated person commonly called a Letting Agent DOESN’T abrogate any of the legal responsibilities that he has.

    All the LL could possibly do is sue the LA for incompetence……..good luck with that!!

    Being a LL is NOT a passive activity.

    It has an enormous amount of responsibility which if not managed correctly can result in massive fines as this dopey LL has discovered.

    If you wish to engage in LL activity then acceptance of legal responsibilities has to occur.

    If not then DON’T be a LL!!

  2. Local councils are writing to people who have empty home , to rent them out. Someone may have lost their high paid job and need to rent out home, to help save that home.

    If someone has no knowledge relies an agent to manage their property, then is it fair such as landlord is held liable?

    There is a lack of joined up thinking.

    The Government taxman says landlording is a passive investment, clearly its n’t according to this job and relies on hands-on management. As well, as needing to comply with 400 pieces of regulation….

    • It is IRRELEVANT how a LL becomes one.

      Financial imperatives DON’T mean a newbie LL is excused from responsibilities.

      Properties can be sold.

      If not desired then learning what is required for being a LL is required.

      This tribunal judge has very effectively destroyed the Letting Agent industry..

      He has determined that no LA is responsible for mistakes etc

      It is the LL that is legally liable no matter how onerous being a LL is made.

      Only a fool would rely on an unregulated person to discharge legal responsibilities that are solely down to the LL.

  3. Quite frankly, I’d take any advice from a LA with a massive, massive handful of salt.
    Despite having a let-only arrangement, the LA still contacts me “sort of demanding” that I book things like (in the latest one, PAT) through them as it “must be done every year”*. The wording is, I assume, straight from one of the trade scams and it’s something I’ve picked holes in with them previously – so there’s no excuse for them telling outright lies. Following on from my “robust” response, one of the partners mentioned that he’d not accept my documentation anyway (I’d said I’d being doing visual inspections* of the portable appliances when I’m there for the gas safety checks). When I asked why, he replied that I was not a qualified electrician – which is yet another popular fallacy the trade scams like to push.
    * If you look it up, there is no requirements AT ALL in law for annual inspections and testing of (electrical) appliances – and it’s possible that in some situation, an annual testing cycle wouldn’t actually meet the requirements (it will be a lot shorter for some high risk appliances/situations). What the law does require is that there be a management process in place to ensure that appliances are safe – an inspection and testing regime will be part of that, but is not the be-all and end-all. And as with EICR, there is no requirement for the tester to be a “qualified electrician” or a member of one of the trade scams (like NICEIC or NAPIT) – but they must be competent. Competent means having the knowledge and skills, via training and experience, to perform the work safely – quite frankly, having seem some examples, there are “fully qualified” people I wouldn’t trust to fit a plug properly !

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