London Housing Foundation is proud to support the work of Safer Renting. They work across ten London boroughs offering support to those at risk of illegal eviction, and providing advice and training to housing teams and the police. We asked Roz Spencer, Project lead, to tell us about some of the people they work with.
Katrina is a recently divorced single mother on maternity leave from her job at Waitrose, with an 8 month old baby who had just had surgery for a disability.
When we met her, Katrina was paying £900 per month for an unlicensed property that was so poorly insulated, and with so little heat that we found mould at her windows. The landlord took a rent deposit from her but did not put it in a protection scheme as required by law. Katrina told us that her landlord was now trying to evict her.
We could have supported Katrina to contest the landlord’s bid to make her homeless, but the property would not be made safe for her and her baby to live in within a reasonable timeframe. We agreed instead to assist her in getting emergency temporary accommodation and assistance with rehousing by the council.
Katrina qualified to claim a Rent Repayment Order against the landlord as he had – amongst other things, failed to get a licence for letting the ‘home’.
With some help from us Katrina was successful in getting emergency rehousing. We then commenced the procedure for claiming a Rent Repayment Order (RRO), an arduous process that can take a year to come to Tribunal and has an uncertain outcome.
However, on receiving notice of our application for a RRO, the landlord agreed to negotiate an out of court settlement. Katrina was delighted to be made a substantial offer removing the stress of going through the tribunal process and the wait for an award. The pay-out enabled her to cover the expenses involved in resettling in a decent home where she will be able to raise her new born.
When we met Kevin and Sam, they were sharing facilities with another household in an unlicensed house in multiple occupation; none of the legal requirements for letting the property had been met by the landlord. In addition, the landlord had made a trumped up claim of rent arrears and engaged in a campaign of harassment, culminating in an illegal eviction. Kevin and Sam’s belongings were removed from the property whilst they were out and the locks changed.
We agreed there was no point in negotiating – the relationship with the landlord had completely broken down. So we agreed to try and recover their possessions which had been placed in storage and apply for a Rent Repayment Order.
It took some time but protracted communications with the landlord eventually paid dividends and the possessions were returned. However, our application for a Rent Repayment Order was defended by the landlord, and a significant amount of work was needed to refute the landlord’s claims.
Eventually the First Tier Property Tribunal agreed the RRO, awarding the full amount of one year’s rental payments to be repaid to Kevin and Sam. The landlord refused to pay the award, and so we had to go through a further judicial procedure and get a Third Party Debt Order, to obtain the funds owed directly from the landlord’s bank account.
Almost two and a half years after we met them, Kevin and Sam have received their money and have happily moved on.
When we met Zara she was renting an unlicensed 2 bed flat and letting out the second bedroom, on a ‘sham’ agreement. The landlord claimed that he lived at the property and that Zara was a lodger, not a tenant. As a result she would only enjoy limited rights and have no protection from eviction as she would as a tenant. The landlord had been visiting frequently unannounced and soon, Zara’s sub-tenant left because of this behaviour. The landlord then began occupying the ‘spare’ room, coming and going in breach of pandemic lock down rules. Zara had herself decided to leave but wanted redress.
We advised Zara that owing to the landlord’s failure to licence, she had the right to claim a Rent Repayment Order for a full year’s worth of rental. We prepared and submitted an application to the First Tier Property Tribunal on her behalf.
On receiving legal notice of our proceedings, the landlord settled the claim in full, out of court and we were happily able to file for discontinuance. Zara has received £6,900 compensation for the mistreatment.
For more information about Safer Renting, go to https://ch1889.org/safer-renting.