Oxford unlicensed landlord made to repay students £84,000

A student accommodation management company has been ordered to refund more than £84,000 in rent after failing to licence it with the city council.

SC Osney Lane Management Ltd runs the purpose-built Student Castle in Osney Lane, Oxford, which opened in 2020.

But it failed to apply for a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence for the 41-flats complex.

The council’s HMO additional licensing scheme requires managers of all shared rented houses and flats to be licensed.

A council officer advised the company of the issue after inspecting the 242-room building in September 2021, which it later applied for and obtained.

People living in unlicensed accommodation can claim back rent from landlords, which led to 44 tenants making a group claim via a tribunal at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.

It decided each tenant should receive a 35% refund of rent, paid while it was unlicensed, totalling £84,877.

The tribunal found that while the pandemic “interrupted normal ways of doing business“, the respondent was a “professional landlord who should have ensured there were systems in place“.

However, it accepted the failure to obtain a licence was “by omission rather than deliberate“.

Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said the case showed the consequences of landlords not having their paperwork in order.

She added: “Everyone deserves a decent home and our licensing schemes are vital in helping to ensure that private rented homes are safe, well maintained and well managed.”

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