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Rogue letting agent used 'smokescreen' to conceal ownership

Gosset Street RRO win

Four tenants have lost their £309,000 claim for harassment but won a £21,160 rent repayment order from their landlord-letting agent for living in an unlicensed flat.

A First Tier Property Tribunal heard that the property – a four-bedroom flat in Gosset Street, London - was unlicensed between September 2020 and June 2022. Landlord Mohammed Abdur Rahim had obtained a licence in 2017 under Tower Hamlets council's selective licensing scheme but had died in March 2021. No application was made for a new licence until October 2022.

Tenancy agreements

However, CL (City Lord) Wapping Estate Ltd was deemed to be liable as the landlord as it was named on tenancy agreements and received the rack rent. It had tried to argue that it was a mere agent for the landlord, whom the tenants had never heard of. The tribunal labelled the company “a rogue letting agent” and criticised a “complete lack of transparency”.

The tenants were given notice to vacate on 27th May 2022, and told to leave on 27th June as the landlord wanted to sell the property. The tribunal ruled that they should have been given two months’ notice. It said the offence had been committed after the temporary exemption notice expired – despite the company’s argument that it was unaware of this.

Informed decision

The judge said: “We do not accept that the respondent ‘inadvertently’ became a landlord. An informed decision had been made not to identify Mr Rahim as landlord. This was rather a smokescreen to conceal the real ownership of the maisonette.”

The tenants had made a claim for £309,060, submitting medical evidence stating that they suffered from stress and anxiety. However, the company denied harassment claims and the tribunal ruled that although the situation was undoubtedly stressful and that they were given short notice for an inspection, and should have been given longer notice, it did not constitute harassment.