A not-for-profit business that advocates tenants use Rent Repayment Orders against landlords has issued a furious response to a Supreme Court decision.
Earlier this week the Court issued its judgment in the case of Rakusen v Jepsen. In this case the landlord, a Mr Rakusen, agreed to let a flat to a rent-to-rent company. The property required a licence, but the company did not apply for one.
As a result of the failure to be licenced, the former tenants of the flat sought a Rent Repayment Order against Rakusen rather than the rent-to-rent company – even though he had not received rent directly from the tenants.
Rent-to-rent companies take over the running of a property for a landlord. At an initial tribunal it was ruled that the Rent Repayment Order could be applied for against Rakusen. The Court of Appeal however later overturned the decision and ruled in Rakusen’s favour.
But now the Supreme Court has ruled that where rent-to-rent companies take over the running of a property, they cannot shirk responsibility and expect to leave the landlord to pay for their legal failings.
In response the Justice For Tenants organisation has issued a lengthy and outspoken response.
This says: “If the law doesn’t change, it is not a case of if we will have another Awaab Ishak in the Private Rented Sector, or when we will have another Awaab, but how many and how often. If the government does not amend the legislation, those most affected by this cost-of-living crisis will pay the ultimate price for their struggle. They will pay with their lives and health through fires in death-trap properties and breathing problems from untreated damp and mould.
“This decision creates a blueprint for property owners who want to maximise their profit, cram as many tenants as can fit into inhuman conditions and extract extra rent from desperate humans who need a place to call home. Unfortunately, two-thirds of councils lack the resources to prosecute a single landlord each year, and the only realistic protection available to tenants is applying for a Rent Repayment Order.
“With this Supreme Court ruling, rogue landlords can sidestep the law and tar the reputation of all landlords.”
Justice For Tenants claims there is a “criminal blueprint” given the green light by the Supreme Court’s decision.
It says this blueprint involves a landlord creating a company with no assets, renting their property to that company, and the company renting out each room.
The campaign says: “The tenant can only sue the company with no assets, which will not pay any court award, eating up the limited resources of the taxpayer-funded court system. The landlord can avoid putting in safety measures and ignore the law, knowing they have made an intelligent business decision, because there is almost no risk that anything will happen to them.”
Now Justice For Tenants says the government must amend what it calls “this broken legislation” and it claims: “If the law is not amended, we must remember this moment. We must remember it when families appear on the news to share memories of their children who died when studying at university in a property run by this arrangement. We must remember it when another story breaks about a child dying from breathing in toxic mould that no one fixed because no one cared. We must remember that there was an opportunity to change the law and protect the most vulnerable.”
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