Houses in multiple occupation - defence lawyers

At Stephensons, we have a team of specialist regulatory lawyers who regularly act for landlords, managers, and letting agents in relation to houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs). In particular, our specialist HMO solicitors can provide advice and representation in relation to licensing applications (including refusals and revocations), enforcement action, rent repayment orders, and appeals to the first tier tribunal.

If you require assistance, please contact our HMO lawyers on 0203 816 9274, alternatively complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly to discuss your requirements.

 

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HMO regulation

The property market has expanded and changed significantly over the past few years. With expansion comes more regulation and standards for landlords to adhere to, particularly in relation to houses in multiple occupation.

Local authorities now have the power to regulate HMOs within their areas with the aim of safeguarding tenants. Failure to licence a HMO or failure to comply with the HMO management regulations can lead to criminal prosecutions, substantial fines, orders to repay rent to affected tenants and banning orders.

Our specialist HMO lawyers understand the intense pressure on landlords and managers of properties to comply with the increasingly complex and ever changing legislation and regulations that govern the management of HMOs. We also understand how enforcement action, rent repayment orders and licensing issues can impact significantly on a landlord, whether this be financially, reputational or both. Our experience allows us to provide clear and strategic advice at all stages to help minimise the impact on you.

Experienced HMO lawyers

As specialist HMO lawyers, we act for landlords, managers and letting agents in relation to the following:

  • HMO licence applications
  • Notices of intent to revoke; refuse; or vary a licence
  • Appeals of notices to revoke; refuse; or vary a licence to the first-tier tribunal (property chamber)
  • Initial investigations by the council, including advice and representation at interviews under caution (known as PACE interviews)
  • Criminal investigations and prosecutions, including representation at court
  • Notice of intent to impose a civil penalty
  • Appeals of civil penalties to the first-tier tribunal (property chamber)
  • Rent repayment orders
  • Interim and final management orders
  • Banning orders

HMO legal representation

Under the Housing Act 2004, private landlords, property managers, and letting agents can be held legally liable if the property is not correctly licensed or there has been a breach of the management regulations. The government and local councils take these offences very seriously and there are various actions that they can take in response to this. If the council consider that you have committed an offence, they have the power to issue you with a civil penalty of up to £30,000 per offence or they can continue with a criminal prosecution which can result in an unlimited fine. If this happens, this can have serious implications on you financially and on your status as a landlord. It is therefore vital that you seek specialist legal advice in order to protect your interests and safeguard yourself as a landlord.

It is also important to note that in the event that you are prosecuted or issued with a civil penalty, this can have implications on future licence applications and current licence applications. Further, your tenants will be notified by the council of their right to make a rent repayment order. Rent repayment orders can result in a tenant receiving up to 12 months of their rent back from you.

Furthermore you should always seek specialist advice before agreeing to attend an interview under caution with a local authority. These interviews can have serious implications and will often give rise to criminal prosecution. Our specialist HMO lawyers can advise you on the correct approach to take to protect your interests.

If you require advice or support in relation to HMO rules and regulations, you should seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible in order to protect your and your business’ interest. For a confidential no obligation discussion with a member of our regulatory team, please contact us on 0203 816 9274 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

Recent examples of our HMO regulation work:

  • Representations against a notice of intent to issue a civil penalty of £30,000 for one offence. Our involvement resulted in the penalty being reduced to £12,000

  • Representations against a notice of intent to revoke a HMO licence as a result of concerns about their ability to meet the criteria for a ‘fit and proper’ landlord

  • Representing a landlord at an interview under caution, whereby the council were alleging that the landlord had failed to obtain a HMO licence and breached a number of regulations

  • Representing a landlord at an interview under caution, whereby the council were alleging that the landlord had failed to obtain a selective licence. Our involvement resulted in the landlord receiving a caution, rather than being prosecuted or receiving a civil penalty

  • Representing an agent who was being prosecuted for their involvement in running a HMO property without a licence and a breach in regulations. We were able to persuade the local authority to withdraw the prosecution proceedings against the agent on the basis that they were considered not to be responsible for the management of the property at the time of the alleged offences

  • Defending a landlord who was being prosecuted by the local authority for a number of offences, relating to a number of HMO properties

  • Representing a landlord in the first-tier tribunal in relation to a rent repayment order, whereby the tenants had made an application for a 12 month repayment of rent. Our involvement resulted in the landlord receiving a rent repayment order totalling 2 months’ rent

Our fees

Wherever possible our HMO lawyers operate on a fixed fee basis. We will provide you with a clear indication of our fees at each stage of proceedings - for example: initial reviews and advice, interviews under caution, and preparation of legal representations. This allows clarity and certainty on costs whilst your case is ongoing. In the event that we cannot offer a fixed fee, we will provide you with a clear indication of what our fees will be for each stage of your case and provide you with regular updates.

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