After three recent judgements rescinding charges
made for HMO licences on the grounds that they were excessive or
unlawful, the National Landlords Association has written to every
local council in England requesting that they return any
overcharged fees to their respective landlords.
The first of the three judgements, Hemming vs Westminster City
Council, resulted in the court ruling that fees may only cover the
costs of licencing. That means that any fees that incur a profit
for the council or are used to deter new providers from entering
the market are deemed to contravene the European Services Directive
The full implications of the ruling are not yet known, as it may
affect other local authority licences.
The second case, this time lodged against the Oxford City
Council, related to the charging of a fee for the alteration of an
HMO licence. Once again, the charging of such a fee was determined
to be illegal and the fee was repaid.
In the third case, a private Bristol landlord was prosecuted by
Bristol City Council for failing to supply an HMO for their
Maisonette. The case relied on the provision that the Maisonette
extended over 3 storeys of the building, because the entrance and
hallway were not counted by the landlord.
The defendant was acquitted on the grounds that the lowest floor
was not a storey, invalidating the case for the prosecution. The
three rulings mean that landlords who have incurred fees:
- In excess of the cost of licences
- For altering licences
- For the lack of an HMO thanks to the existence of a third
storey (which legal is not so)
may be due a rebate. The NLA is pressuring local authorities to
actively contact any affected landlords and inform them that they
may be due a refund. Many landlords may be due such refunds,
according to the NLA. Richard Lambert, their CEO, stated that:
"The private rented sector is a valuable and growing part of
local housing provision and it is essential that landlords are able
to work with their local authorities constructively to meet housing
"However, this has been made difficult by some councils'
obfuscations concerning licensing fees."
"In light of these recent rulings, we have asked local
authorities to come clean about the level of fees they have charged
private landlords, if they were entitled to make these charges, and
when they will refund any money unjustly demanded."
"In writing to all local authorities in England, we are
acknowledging the good working partnership many private landlords
have with town halls, but making clear they should not be absorbing
the costs of overcharging to support other council functions."
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