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Rent repayment orders

This content applies to England

Orders requiring a landlord or agent who has committed a relevant offence to repay rent or housing benefit/universal credit.

Definition

A rent repayment order (RRO) requires repayment, of rent or housing benefit or housing costs element of universal credit paid in respect of a tenancy or licence, by a landlord/agent who has committed a particular offence listed in the legislation.[1] It is not necessary that the landlord/agent has actually been convicted, but, in order to grant an RRO, a tribunal must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that one of these offences has been committed.[2]

An RRO can require the repayment of a sum of up to a maximum of 12 months’ rent.[3]

Relevant offences

With effect from 6 April 2017, the relevant offences are:[4]

As an HMO licence cannot be transferred to another person, when a landlord acquires a tenanted property which requires and already has a licence, s/he cannot rely on the existing licence but must apply to the local authority for her/his own, otherwise s/he commits an offence.[5]

Applications

An application for an RRO:[6]

  • is made to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)
  • can be made by an occupier or a local housing authority.

Applications should be made using Form RRO1.

In cases where there is an ambiguity about who is the landlord, whether the owner of the property or an agent such in the case of rent to rent agreements, the application for an RRO can be made against either of them or both of them jointly.[7]

There will be a fee for those wishing to apply for a RRO, and further fees will be payable should a hearing be necessary.[8] See costs for more information about fees.

Occupiers

An occupier can apply for an RRO to recover rent s/he has paid to the landlord/agent if:[9]

  • the offence relates to housing that s/he was occupying under a letting agreement at the time of the offence, and
  • the offence was committed in the period of 12 months ending with the day on which the application is made.

Occupiers can apply to recover any period of rent during their occupancy, up to the maximum of 12 months, so long as they apply within the limit of 12 months from the date of the offence.[10]

An occupier in this context is either a tenant or licensee of the landlord. Tenancies or licences for a term of more than 21 years are included.[11]

Local authorities are empowered to help an occupier to apply for an RRO by, for example, conducting proceedings on the occupier's behalf or by providing advice on how to do it.[12]

Local authorities

A local housing authority can apply for an RRO to recover housing benefit or housing costs element of universal credit paid (to any person) if:[13]

  • the offence relates to housing in the authority's area, and
  • the authority has first served a notice of intended proceedings.

In certain cases a local authority must consider applying for a rent repayment order in relation to property situated in its area. This will apply where a landlord has been convicted of an offence which either was first committed on or after 6 April 2017 or is a licensing offence first committed before that date and continuing after 5 April 2018.[14]

A notice of intended proceedings must:[15]

  • inform the landlord/agent that the authority intends to apply for an RRO and set out the reasons
  • state the amount that the authority seeks to recover
  • invite the landlord/agent to make representations within a specified period (of not less than 28 days), and
  • relate to a period of maximum 12 months of the landlord/agent committing the offence.

The amount the authority seeks to recover cannot exceed the amount of housing benefit or universal credit paid (directly or indirectly) to the landlord/agent in the relevant period.

The authority can apply for an RRO after the expiry of the notice of intended proceedings and after it has considered any representations made.

Regulations prescribe that local authorities can use any money recovered under an RRO to meet the costs and expenses (whether administrative or legal) incurred in, or associated with, carrying out any of their enforcement functions in relation to the private rented sector.[16]

Statutory guidance

In deciding whether to apply for an RRO in connection with an offence wholly committed on or after 6 April 2017, local housing authorities must have regard to the statutory guidance on Rent repayment orders under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 issued by the Secretary of State.[17]

Making of RRO

The Firs-tier Tribunal must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt (ie the criminal standard of proof) that the landlord has committed the offence. It is not necessary that the landlord/agent has been convicted of the offence.[18]

Where tenants of an unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) brought RRO proceedings against both a limited company named as the landlord on the tenancy agreement and its sole director, who was also a joint owner of the property, the Tribunal held that since there was no evidence of the company having any property interest in the HMO, the RRO should be made against the joint owner as the landlord.[19]

Amount of RRO

The amount of an RRO must relate to rent or benefits paid in respect of a period not exceeding 12 months during which the landlord was committing the offence or, if the offence was harassment, illegal eviction or violence for securing entry into premises, 12 months ending with the date of the offence.[20]

In deciding the amount, the First-tier Tribunal must take into account:[21]

  • the conduct of the landlord
  • the financial circumstances of the landlord, and
  • whether or not the landlord has actually been convicted of a relevant offence or has received a financial penalty.

In addition, where the application is made by the occupier the Tribunal must:[22]

  • take into account the conduct of the occupier
  • deduct any housing benefit or universal credit paid in respect of rent.

The legislation does not restrict the amount of the RRO in favour of the tenant to the landlord's profit over the relevant period, that is to rent minus expenses. The Upper Tribunal held that while the landlord's payments for utilities used by the tenant may be deducted from the amount of rent, there is no automatic right to deduct all expenses, for example payments for maintenance and repairs or local authority fines.[23]

The amount owed under an RRO is enforceable as if it were a debt in the county court (see Part 7 - general procedure and Online claims for details about money claims).[24]

An appeal against an RRO is made to the Upper Tribunal.[25]

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.40 Housing and Planning Act 2016; Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No. 5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/281; s.56 Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides that references to a tenancy includes a licence.

[2] s.43(1) Housing and Planning Act 2016; Opara v Olasemo (HOUSING – RENT REPAYMENT ORDER – unlawful eviction) (2020) UKUT 96 (LC).

[3] s.44 and s.45 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[4] s.40(3) Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[5] see s.68(6) Housing Act 2004 and Taylor v Mina An Ltd (HOUSING – HOUSE IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION) [2019] UKUT 249 (LC).

[6] s.41 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[7] Goldsbrough & Anor v CA Property Management Ltd & Ors (HOUSING – HOUSE IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION) [2019] UKUT 311 (LC).

[8] s.42(1)(a) Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. See also HM Courts and Tribunal Service, form EX50.

[9] s.41(2) Housing and Planning Act 2016; Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No.5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/281.

[10] 34 Sarsfield Road, Perivale, Greenford, Middx UB6 7AE (case ref LON/00AJ/HMF/2018/0053, 15 May 2019); for a comment see nearlylegal.co.uk/2019/09/rent-repayment-orders-limitation-and-award-periods/; getrentback.org/blog/2019/05/25/appeal-successful-confirmation-of-rro-timing-under-hapa-2016/

[11] s.56 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[12] s.49 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[13] s.48 Housing and Planning Act 2016, reg 5 Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No. 5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/281.

[14] s.41(3) Housing and Planning Act 2016; Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Commencement No.5, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/281.

[15] s.42 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[16] Rent Repayment Orders and Financial Penalties (Amounts Recovered) (England) Regulations 2017 SI 2017/367.

[17] s.41(4) Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[18] s.43 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[19] Taylor v Mina An Ltd (HOUSING – HOUSE IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION) [2019] UKUT 249 (LC); see also s. 40(1) and 40(3) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[20] ss.44 and 45 Housing and Planning Act 2016; Wilson v Campbell (HOUSING - RENT REPAYMENT ORDER) [2019] UKUT 363 (LC); Parker v Waller & Ors [2012] UKUT 301 (LC) (however see footnote ...).

[21] ss.44 to 46 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[22] s.44 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[23] ss. 43, 44 Housing and Planning Act 2016; Vadamalayan v Stewart and others [2020] UKUT 0183 (LC).

[24] s.47 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

[25] s.53 Housing and Planning Act 2016.

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