Rent repayment orders
Orders requiring a landlord or agent who has committed a relevant offence to repay rent, housing benefit or universal credit.
Rent repayment orders overview
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.
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 (the criminal standard of proof) that one of these offences has been committed.
An RRO can require the repayment of a sum of up to a maximum of 12 months’ rent.
Offences that can result in a rent repayment order
The offences that can result in a rent repayment order being made are set out in section 40(3) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
|Using or threatening violence for securing entry into premises
|s.6 Criminal Law Act 1977
|Illegal eviction or harassment
|s.1 Protection from Eviction Act 1977
|Failure to comply with improvement notice
|s.30 Housing Act 2004
|Failure to comply with prohibition order
|s.32 Housing Act 2004
|Breach of banning order
|s.21 Housing and Planning Act 2016
|Having control of, or managing, an unlicensed property
|s.95 Housing Act 2004
|Having control of, or managing, an unlicensed HMO
|s.72 Housing Act 2004
As an HMO licence cannot be transferred to another person, when a landlord acquires a tenanted property which requires and already has a licence, they cannot rely on the existing licence but must apply to the local authority for their own. They commit an offence if they do not.
Who a rent repayment order can be made against
A rent repayment order can only be made against the tenant's immediate landlord. Where the tenant's immediate landlord is an intermediate landlord, an RRO can only be made against that landlord. It cannot be made against the superior landlord.
An RRO cannot be made against the director of a company landlord.
The immediate landlord might not be the person or company named as the landlord on the agreement. The owner of the property could be a tenant's immediate landlord if the person or company named on the agreement is only acting as an agent.
In cases where there is an ambiguity about who the landlord is, whether the owner of the property or an agent, such as 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.
Applications for a rent repayment order
An application for an RRO is made to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), and can be made by an occupier or a local housing authority.
Applications should be made using Form RRO1.
There is a fee for those wishing to apply for a RRO. Further fees are payable if a hearing is necessary.
Successful applicants can recover their application fees.. Applicants can request reimbursement of the application and hearing fees in the RRO application form (paragraph 9), any further written submissions, and at the hearing.
Costs in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal are awarded at the discretion of the relevant Tribunal. The Tribunal does not usually award legal costs unless the claim is unfounded or an applicant behaves unreasonably and the Tribunal decides it is appropriate to make a costs order.
An occupier can apply for an RRO to recover rent they have paid to the landlord/agent if the offence:
relates to housing that they were occupying under a letting agreement at the time of the offence, and
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.
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.
Local authorities are empowered to help an occupier to apply for an RRO, for example by conducting proceedings on the occupier's behalf or by providing advice on how to do it.
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 the:
offence relates to housing in the authority's area, and
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.
A notice of intended proceedings must:
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.
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.
How a rent repayment order is made
The First-tier Tribunal must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt (that is the criminal standard of proof) that the landlord has committed the offence. It is not necessary that the landlord or agent has been convicted of the offence.
The Tribunal should hold a hearing of the RRO applications if the facts are disputed.
An appeal against an RRO is made to the Upper Tribunal.
In one case, the Upper Tribunal found that the First-tier Tribunal had taken too strict an approach when it did not allow late evidence from the applicants and dismissed the claim. The landlord had admitted the offence, and the Tribunal should have allowed the matters to be corrected and continued with the trial.
Claim against joint landlords
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.
Rent repayment order amount
The amount of an RRO must relate to rent or benefits paid during a period not exceeding 12 months during which the landlord was committing the offence. It must relate to amounts paid during the 12 months ending with the date of the offence if the offence was harassment, illegal eviction or violence for securing entry into premises.
The amount cannot include rent payments made after the period of an offence, even if they were to pay rent due during the period of offence.
Approach to be taken by the First-tier Tribunal
In deciding the amount of an RRO, the First-tier Tribunal should:
start by determining the whole rent for the relevant period
subtract any part for utility payments that only benefited the tenant, for example, gas, electricity, internet access
consider the seriousness of the offence
consider whether any deduction or addition should be made
Where the application is made by the occupier, the Tribunal must also take into account:
the financial circumstances of the landlord
the conduct of the landlord and the occupier
whether the landlord has been convicted of an offence for which a rent repayment order can be made
The Tribunal must also deduct any housing benefit or universal credit paid in respect of rent.
Determining the full rent
Full rent paid is the maximum that can be repaid under the RRO, but the Tribunal does not have to award it in all cases. The Tribunal can exercise discretion as to the RRO amount, and the Upper Tribunal has held that a full award should be made in only the most serious cases.
An applicant cannot ask for separate RROs or receive more than 12 months' rent even if a landlord commits several offences. 12 months' rent is the maximum which a landlord could be ordered to repay irrespective of the number, timing or duration of the offences.
The amount paid as tenancy deposit cannot be included in an RRO while it is still lawfully held as security for the performance of the tenants' obligations.
Where the claim is made by one joint tenant and the other tenants have settled with the landlord, the Tribunal should start with the claimant's share of the rent when determining the RRO amount. For example, half of the total rent where there are two joint tenants.
Where three out of five joint tenants applied for a rent repayment order, the award could not exceed the proportion of rent each of them had paid.
Deductions for utilities
The law 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.
Seriousness of the offence
The First-tier Tribunal should take into account the seriousness of the offence committed when compared to other examples of the same offence, and other types of offence for which an RRO may be made.
In one case, the Upper Tribunal found that the failure to obtain an HMO licence is not one of the most serious RRO offences. This means that a lower award might be appropriate. The Tribunal also considered whether there were any safety hazards which would have prevented the grant of an HMO licence and that the landlord was aware a licence was needed but chose not to apply for one. 
Deductions or additions
Deductions or additions could be made due to:
the conduct of the landlord
the financial circumstances of the landlord
whether or not the landlord has actually been convicted of a relevant offence or has received a financial penalty
In one case, the Upper Tribunal found that the First-tier Tribunal had not sufficiently considered evidence suggesting that the landlord was suffering from serious mental health conditions.
Deductions due to the occupier's conduct
An occupier's failure to pay rent is conduct that can be taken into account when determining the amount of a rent repayment order.
The Upper Tribunal upheld the reduction in the RRO amount based on the occupier’s conduct where they obstructed inspections.
RRO amount following a conviction
In some cases the Tribunal's discretion is limited to exceptional circumstances and the amount must be a maximum that the Tribunal has the power to order.
This is the case when an RRO is made against a landlord who has been convicted of the offence or received a financial penalty and in favour of a local authority, or an occupier if the landlord has: 
used or threatened violence for securing entry into premises
illegally evicted or harassed an occupier
failed to comply with improvement notice
failed to comply with prohibition order
breached banning order
Last updated: 12 October 2023