If you are a landlord and you operate legally and responsibly, you will probably never have to worry about rent repayment orders (RRO). But it is important to understand what they are so you can avoid them in the first place, so here’s a guide to what you need to know.
What Are Rent Repayment Orders?
Rent repayment orders are used when a landlord has committed a certain offence in order to reclaim rent, universal credit or housing benefit that has been paid to the landlord.
The offences are quite specific, but if one of them applies to you, then you could find yourself in the position where a tenant or local authority takes action against you.
Changes to RROs in 2017
RROs were originally introduced in 2004 as a way to penalise landlords for licensing offences related to HMOs. They were only available in specific circumstances, and the landlord had to be convicted of a criminal offence for operating an HMO without a licence before any action could be taken.
The tenant also had to rely on the local authority to take action before they could claim any compensation.
This all changed in the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Starting in April 2017, the landlord no longer needed to be convicted in order for a tenant or local authority to take out an RRO.
Also, it is up to the tribunal to decide that an offence has occurred beyond reasonable doubt in order to enforce the repayment, without waiting for the landlord to be convicted. Now, tenants can also apply for an RRO where previously only the local authority could.
How large can the repayments be? The maximum is 12 months’ of payments such as rent or universal assistance.
The tribunal will have the final say on how much to award, and they will consider the landlord’s financial situation and conduct. But if the landlord is convicted of the offence, the tribunal must give the maximum penalty.
The landlord must be guilty of specific offences to face an RRO:
- Using violence, or threatening violence, to enter a premises
- Illegal eviction
- Not complying with a prohibition order
- Not complying with an improvement notice
- Breaching a banning order
- Managing or controlling an unlicensed property or house in multiple occupation (HMO)
Seek Legal Assistance
If a tenant or local authority decides to take action, your best course of action as a landlord is to hire a solicitor. You may need to attend a Case Management Conference (CMC) appointment, or your solicitor can attend instead. This could proceed to a tribunal hearing appointment, but the judge will decide.
Your solicitor will be able to guide you through the process and explain what action you need to take to defend yourself.