A Tribunal judge has warned landlords that unless they have a specific contractual arrangement with their letting agency to keep them abreast of licencing requirements it will – in most circumstances – be the landlord who pays the fine for non-compliance.
Judge Phillip Barber has made the comments during a First Tier Tribunal appeal by Leeds portfolio landlord David Howarth, who objected to a financial penalty levied by the city’s council.
This followed the discovering that his property had been rented out within a selective licence area that went live in 2020, but did not have a licence.
Howarth, who used local lettings firm Letsby Avenue to manage the property, now faces paying a £4,000 penalty.
Judge Barber pointed out to the landlord that although his agent had failed to inform him that his property needed to licenced, and although its representative at the Tribunal had been ‘unimpressive’, under the relevant legislation (section 249A of the Housing Act 2004) he was due to pay the fine.
The Tribunal points to the landmark Aytans vs Moore (and others) case from last year in which it was established that unless a landlord has a ‘contractual agreement’ with their letting agent to inform them of licencing changes around a property, they will be culpable.
And even then a contractual arrangement will not let them off the hook, but rather can be included in the decision making by a Tribunal.
“Whilst we have made findings that in our view Mr Howarth was not told about the requirement to obtain a licence until probably October 2020, this does not amount to a reasonable excuse under section 95(4),” said Barber.
Howarth also argued that his local authority’s attempts to promote the introduction of the scheme in 2020 were not sufficient, an argument the Judge rejected.
But given the landlord’s previous good character and his efforts to get a licence as soon as it became clear he needed one, the original £5,000 penalty was reduced by £1,000.