A landlord pair have been ordered to pay more than £34,000 in back rent to six tenants after sub-letting their unsafe, unlicensed HMO via a rent-to-rent deal.

James and Catherine Doig were slapped with the rent repayment order despite insisting that they didn’t know about licensing rules.

The pair had let the property in Fordwych Road, Camden (pictured), to Rosemary Espinosa and Victoria Lai since 2009 on annually renewed tenancy agreements for a monthly rent of £2,600, who then sublet it to individual tenants, collecting monthly rental payments totalling £2,920.

Camden Council officers found nine tenants in four households using the property and sharing bathrooms and kitchen facilities.

They also uncovered numerous safety issues including obstructed fire escapes, inadequate fire doors, untested fire alarms and smoke detectors that didn’t work.

There were also large piles of personal items and furniture throughout the common areas of the house.

Ignorance and confusion

James Doig told the First Tier Property Tribunal that he knew nothing about HMO licencing, pleading ignorance, confusion and an inability to manage paperwork.

He claimed the pair didn’t realise it had been sub-let but admitted they had visited the property and seen other people living there who they didn’t know.

Doig suggested that Rosemary Espinosa and Victoria Lai should have applied for a licence.

The tribunal noted that the couple had never expressed concern about the dangers faced by the tenants as a result of their failures to comply with statutory HMO letting requirements, nor did they express any regret that this had happened.

Tenants Redindo Felix, Amor Bustamente, Rosemary Burias, Esperanza Ford, Luz Tonido and Ireno Tonido will be paid a total of £34,843 as well as £300 fees. Since the council’s enforcement order the Doigs have now applied for a licence.

Read the full adjudication.

Read more: Is a landlord responsible for a rent-to-rent operator’s mistakes?


  1. When I noticed random people in a property I rent out I informed the council, who then told me I shouldn’t be questioning people as to who they are and where they are going. I was informed as per the contract a tenant has the right for ‘quiet enjoyment’ and I was further questioned as to why I was even at the property. Sounds like this couple had a incompetent lawyer. It is not the landlords duty to ensure tenants follow the law and don’t break rules. The tenant is a human being that signed a contract and should be held responsible for breaking the law and putting people in unsafe conditions.

  2. Unfortunately rarely is RTR legal.

    I know of NO mortgage lender that allows it.
    Mortgage free LL a different situation.

    Though I would imagine the property insurer would nit be content.

    In the event of a total loss it is highly unlikely the insurance claim would be met.

    These LL have bern very naive.

    They should have checked with the Council whether what they were proposing to do was valid.

    That way they would have probably avoided the rent repayment

  3. Mmm… Just an after thought, so, the original two tenants made an initial monthly profit of £160 each, or £320 combined: quote” since 2009 on annually renewed tenancy agreements for a monthly rent of £2,600, who then sublet it to individual tenants, collecting monthly rental payments totalling £2,920″

    Presuming this profit would of course rise concurrently, or even more, with any actual rent increase.

    I wonder if taxes were paid on this £3840, obviously we don’t know the finer details, if said original tenants worked etc.

    Although, I guess this is the least of the Tribunal concerns, as the Landlord(s) are obviously numpties, utterly incompetent, as who the h£ll rents out any property without doing their homework, our first rental property was acquired early in 2010, and boy we recall having to brush up with on a lot, a h£ell of a lot.

    Hey ho, so just another case of being caught out, unprofessional landlords of which the likes of all media and likes shelter and all other obnoxious’es, points at and love to depict every single landlord as being just as bad, or even worse!

    Sorry, no sympathy whatsoever our way, ignorance is never a defence, they’re only just helping to demonise landlords even more.

  4. RTR appears to be very legal, the courts and council’s issue was only with regards to a HMO license and respective building regs, which doesn’t relate to mortgage/insurance.

  5. Yes, RTR is completely legal if done right. But that last bit is key – IF DONE RIGHT.
    Where these two fell down was not doing it right. Had they set up the right contract, then they could have made the RTR tenants responsible for complying with (most of) the rules and regulations – but an AST is not the right contract for this. I say most of the rules as regulations as liability for failure to comply with some cannot be contracted out to someone else – management of the responsibility can be contracted out, but liability for ensuring compliance can’t be.
    But this story isn’t about a RTR deal. It’s about a pair of landlords letting on (presumably) a standard AST, and then turning a blind eye to what the tenants were actually doing and not doing anything to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations.

  6. I think it is a shambles, courts seem to always favour anybody but the landlord. An AST had been signed, but it probably should have been a company let. I am sure the AST stipulates no sub-letting as most ASTs do, in which case shouldn’t the signed tenants should be at fault? If the tenants had a cannabis farm/brothel/child kidnapping ring in the property would the landlords still be at fault? How is a landlord to know what goes on in their rented property, they can do six-monthly checks but beyond that the tenant is allowed their privacy.


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