Antoine contacted Renters’ Rights London because the landlord he rents from ignored serious disrepair for six weeks. Antoine and the others in the house had to fill a bucket to flush the toilet for that long. Then, the landlord told Antoine that his share of the cost of replacing the toilet flush would be added to his rent in April.
The landlord said that, as Antoine’s agreement is a Licence to Occupy, this is perfectly legal. Antoine wanted to know whether this is actually the case. The short answer is “No, it isn’t”.
Whereas a landlord is free to decide many things about a Licence to Occupy, the basics of general housing law still apply. That means the landlord has to provide access to kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities. Also, to ensure that the home is not dangerous. As the repair was for basic sanitation, the landlord should pay, even if Antoine is a licensee.
But this landlord’s dishonesty does not end there. Antoine rents a room in a house with four others. Each has his own ‘licence’.
- None of them is a member of the landlord’s family
- The landlord does not live at the same address
- There is no room cleaning or other service provided by the landlord as part of the agreement.
Any one of these is the feature which would distinguish a licence to occupy. It looks as though Antoine is actually an assured shorthold tenant and not a licensee, after all.
Whatever the agreement might be called, the status of a tenancy is not established by the paperwork, it’s established in practice. Some dishonest landlords and agents issue a sham licence to trick renters into believing they have fewer rights.
All assured shorthold tenants’ deposit money has to be protected in a government-backed scheme. Licensees’ deposits do not have to be protected. Unless there are significant rent arrears or some serious breach of the tenancy conditions, assured shorthold tenants are entitled to two months notice that the landlord will seek possession. Licensees have much weaker rights.
As the house is home to five men who share the kitchen and bathroom, Antoine’s place is a ‘house in multiple occupation’. This property should be licensed by the local authority (the council), in line with the law.
Antoine has now been in contact with an officer of the property licensing team at his local council. She confirmed that there is no licence application pending for his address. The council is moving the matter forward. Under the circumstances, Antoine and the others will be able to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for rent repayment orders, as well.
If you’d like to know more about rent repayment orders, leading experts Flat Justice have published a comprehensive guide to rent repayment orders on their website.