Change in housing license allows for Rent Repayment Orders

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Recently, Newcastle University student Tom Brearley won a Rent Repayment Order case, shedding light on the new changes in housing policies. This updated regulation will allow students to claim Rent Repayment Orders.

A Senior Student Advisor spoked with the Courier about Brearley’s case, stressing the importance of knowing the licensing changes made. They said: “We are keen for students to know and exercise their rights in respect of rent repayment orders, and we are there to support them.”

Newcastle City Council extended its private renting licencing scheme in April, affecting thousands of properties, entitling tenants to Rent Repayment Orders. 

It is estimated that an additional 9,377 shared properties will become licensable under the new ‘Additional’ licensing scheme. A further 3,662 properties are predicted to become licensable under the ‘Selective’ licensing scheme. 

The ‘Selective’ licensing designations currently include Byker and High Cross, will now involve properties in Cowgate, East End, HHRS, Scotswood Village and West End. The ‘Additional’ licencing will be required city-wide for any Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO’s) regardless of size and will affect a large number of student occupied properties

Landlords whose properties are included in these new regulations must have applied for a licence by 6th July 2020, with properties being required to be brought up to licensing standards by 5th October 2020. 

The government introduced rent Repayment Orders in 2004 under the Housing Act. The Orders intend to act as a mechanism to protect vulnerable tenants renting in the private sector. 

The Houses and Planning Act 2016 entitled tenants to apply for a Rent Repayment Order against their landlord regardless of whether a local authority took action or not. 

The offences were extended to include: using violence to secure entry, eviction or harassment of occupiers, failure to comply with an improvement/prohibition notice, breach of a banning order and running a licensable property without a licence. 

Specifically, the latter offence related to the licensing of HMOs. A house is in multiple occupations if at least three tenants are living there from more than one ‘household’ who shares toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. A ‘Large HMO’ consists of five or more tenants.

HMOs must be licensed under the 2004 Housing Act. Prior to April 2020, the licensing authorities enforced mandatory licencing of ‘Large HMOs’, with the potential for some HMOs with only three or more tenants to also be licensable. 

In addition to the mandatory licensing of all ‘Large HMOs’, all smaller HMOs, which are occupied by three or more people, will require licenses. Several designated areas have also been selected, where all privately rented properties (whether they are an HMO or not) must be licensed.

Students can check whether their property has been licensed at https://publicaccessapplications.newcastle.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=LicencingApplication for existing licences; or at https://newcastle.metastreet.co.uk/public-register for new licences.

Tenants can apply through a set procedure for a Rent Repayment Order which gives them the right to reclaim rent where landlords/agents have failed to comply with Housing Law. 

If a student feels their property should have a licence but does not, they should contact the Student Advice Centre or the Newcastle City Council HMO team.

Last modified: 16th September 2020

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