Judges and tribunals are cracking down on wayward shared house landlords who fail to licence their properties with record fines.
One landlord has just been ordered to pay £39,000 in rent back to six student tenants in what is believed to be the largest penalty handed down by a residential property tribunal.
But another case overlooked by many may lead to even bigger pay outs for tenants.
Parker v Waller & Ors  UKUT 301 (LC) [Click link for full judgment in new window] is a binding ruling on lower tribunals, like the residential property tribunal, and details exactly how tribunals should penalise landlords.
The case revolves around a letting agent running a shared house in multiple occupation (HMO) without a licence.
The law says that if a landlord is convicted of this offence, the tenants can take the case to a residential payment tribunal and request the refund of any rent paid in the 12 months to the date of the conviction.
The Upper Tribunal hearing Parker v Waller decided five points must be considered before awarding rent payments to tenants:
• The landlord had committed an offence – generally proved by conviction in court
• The refund dates fall within the licence application dates and the offence dates – for example the landlord should have applied for a HMO licence to cover the 12 months before the conviction, not just part of the time
• The seriousness of the offence
• The appropriate amount to award taking in to account the landlords financial means, any fines and costs imposed and the rent any tenants paid
• Whether the tenant’s conduct should result in reducing the award
In the Parker case, the Upper Tribunal confirmed the lower tribunal decision that the landlord should refund £15,423 to his tenants – even though the fine for the HMO offence was just £525 plus costs.