A landlord couple who kicked out three tenants who questioned whether their property should have had an HMO licence have been censured by a court.

A First Tier Property Tribunal heard that Lee and Trudi Curle lied about their property rental set-up in a SpareRoom advert.

It ordered a Rent Repayment Order of £7,618 for their former tenants – Bath University students Rosalie Stafford-Langan, Annabelle Ray and Anania Lippi – along with £300 costs.

The Curles advertised the rooms for let on Spareroom.co.uk, describing the Bradford Road property in Bath as ‘a fab student house’.

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The advert stated: ‘We don’t live here but our son does, and he is a chilled, friendly 23-year-old who works in Bath.’ The couple maintained the tenants were only lodgers in their family home but admitted they had inadvertently neglected to get a licence.

Trudi Curle sent text messages to the students indicating the property’s real status, including: “Hi there, will be popping by Saturday morning to collect the billing and do the meter. If you could leave the amount owing in an envelope marked with your name and seal it and place it in the wooden desk in the kitchen that will be great thank you”.

On 11th February 2020 the students contacted Bath and North Somerset District Council to clarify their rights. Three days later the couple found its letter advising them it would be inspecting the property and gave Ms Ray and Ms Lippi seven days’ notice to leave.

The tribunal found that the couple didn’t live there, that the students held individual tenancies under an assured shorthold and that the property should have been licensed.

It added: “The respondents…recklessly ignored their legal obligations. The tribunal is satisfied that the respondents issued the notices to quit to the applicants in retaliation for them being reported to the council for the potential offence of managing an HMO without a licence.”

Read the judgement in full.

4 COMMENTS

  1. There is NO law which states a homeowner has to occupy their home so many days per month.

    There is NO law which states a homeowner has to be at their home so many hours pw.

    The main criteria for occupation is that a homeowner needs to be in occupation at least every 31 days.

    This is to comply with residential insurance conditions.

    It is a requirement of most residential insurers that the homeowner must contact the insurer if intending to be absent longer than 31 days.

    The insurer might choose to impose special conditions.

    But an absence longer than 31 days is a

    ‘Material fact’

    Insurers must be notified.

    If there are 4 unrelated occupiers including a homeowner then NO Mandatory HMO licence is required.

    However if Additional Licensing is in force then a home with 4 unrelated occupiers as lodgers with one of them bring the live-in LL then an Additional Licence might be required.

    No home with less than 5 occupiers is subject to Selective licensing if the occupiers are lodgers.

    Had the son been the live-in LL and had signed the lodger agreements there would have been NO RRO possibility.

    It is perfectly possible for a homeowner to appoint a family member as the live-in LL; but all lodger agreements need to be in his name.

    It could also be that this homeowner was in breach of their residential mortgage conditions if they have one.

    Most residential mortgages only permit two lodgers.
    Anymore tends to require CTL to a 3rd lodger.

    You cannot have 4 unrelated lodgers plus a homeowner as that is 5 people and would require a Mandatory HMO licence.

    There are few residential houses which comply with roomsizes for a start

    Homeowners should understand that with one occupying homeowner only 3 lodgers may be permitted.

    Many more homeowners will be seeking to sweat their family homes utilising lodgers.

    Homeowners need to make themselves of the regulations regarding lodgers.

    Few homeowners do.

    It is wise that homeowners contact their local council to ascertain what the circumstances may be for lodgers.

    NO homeowner should presume.
    They should check.

    The default position is that two lodgers are acceptable.
    But as with any form of letting homeowners should check with

    Councils
    Insurers
    Mortgage lenders

    These homeowners who have been convicted clearly have attempted to game the system incorrectly.

    If the son had been the signature on the lodger agreement as the live-in LL then things would have been OK.

    The son would NOT have paid any rent as he was the live-in LL.

    As more LL move away from tenants to lodgers they must ensure they have their ducks in a row.

    Homeowners also need to be aware that with 3 lodgers HMRC might consider the PPR as a lodging business and therefore the homeowner would lose PPR relief for the period there are 3 lodgers.

    2 lodgers are generally considered by HMRC as NOT a lodging business.

    Of course one may have guests at a home but they cannot have any linkage to tbe home.
    Guests may stay 180 days per year for no longer than 30 days at a time.

    Homeowners intending to take on more than 1 lodger need to investigate all circumstances to ensure they are not breaching any regulations and conditions.

  2. Why didn’t the landlords just apply for a license after the inspection. Even if the regs aren’t met, the council will advise of what actions need to be taken. Seems the court could have been avoided, if the landlord couple made a little effort.

    • If there was a resi mortgage no licence could be applied for unless CTL had been requested and granted.

      There are over 30000 LL letting in breach of mortgage conditions.

      How can you have a licence for fraudulent letting!?

      In a 4 bed house there must be one homeowner occupying at least one day per month.

      Any lender and insurer must be made aware that there would be 3 single unrelated lodgers.

      If there was a lodger couple then one bedroom wouldn’t be occupied.

  3. I consider the biggest risk for lodger LL is HMRC considering the homeowner is operating a lodger business.

    Any more than 2 lodgers runs that risk.

    A home can increase substantially in value while lodger rent will be small compared to the CG or a home.

    Live-in LL need to be very careful that the loss of PPR relief because of a just 3 lodgers will result in a tax bill far higher than any lodger rent received.

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