Two Russian landlords unable to travel to the UK have been fined over £6,000 plus costs for renting out a property without the correct paperwork within a selective licensing area in the London Borough of Brent.
Tribunal Judge, heard how the Housing Association flat in Kilburn Park, manged by ML Estates, didn’t have the right paperwork for the scheme which came into effect on 1 June 2018.
Landlords Emil Aliev and Natalia Nikiforova did not contest that the criminal offence had been committed and nor did they raise the issue of reasonable excuse.
The Judge heard that the only even remotely possible claim to such a defence was that they were Russians, resident in Russia, and unable to travel to the UK as a consequence of the current international situation, and therefore had to rely on their agent, ML Estates.
However, it was ruled that ML Estates was not responsible for providing the licence and the responsibility was with the landlords, who also rented out another London property for financial gain.
Guidance on reliance on an agent as a reasonable excuse is given in Aytan v Moore : “We would add that a landlord’s reliance upon an agent will rarely give rise to a defence of reasonable excuse.
“At the very least the landlord would need to show that there was a contractual obligation on the part of the agent to keep the landlord informed of licensing requirements; there would need to be evidence that the landlord had good reason to rely on the competence and experience of the agent; and in addition there would generally be a need to show that there was a reason why the landlord could not inform themself of the licensing requirements without relying upon an agent, for example because the landlord lived abroad.”
The Russian landlords could not meet those first two requirements leading The Tribunal to make a rent repayment order against the them in favour of the applicant in the sum of £6,110, to be paid within 28 days together with application and hearing fees in the sum of £300.