New law lets tenants claim back their rent

A change in housing law that lets tenants claim back up to a year’s rent if a landlord has committed a housing offence is gaining popularity after a year on the statute book.

The government introduced the Housing and Planning Act in 2016 as a charter against rogue landlords – but one section passed into law almost unnoticed.

Section 2 of the act empowers tenants to make a claim for a rent refund if they can show their landlord has committed one of several serious housing offences.

If the offence is proved before a residential property tribunal, the tribunal can order the landlord to repay up to a year’s rent.

The offences include harassing tenants, unlawful eviction, management failures of licensed homes and breaking a banning order.

In the first year of the law, tenants exercised their right to reclaim rent almost once a week.

Out of 48 cases applying for a rent repayment order, 13 were successful, according to official figures.

Most of the successful cases involved landlords breaking prohibition orders or failing to licence a shared house in multiple occupation.

To make a successful claim, a tenant must prove a landlord has committed one of the list of offences beyond reasonable doubt and within 12 months of the date when the offence was committed.

“The most significant change is tenants no longer require the local authority to bring a successful prosecution for an application to be made. Previously, tenants depended on the local authority prosecuting the landlord or possibly a successful private prosecution and for the landlord to be found guilty of a licensing offence,” say housing lawyers Anthony Gold.

“Under the new rules, tenants can make an application to the tribunal without securing a criminal conviction, but merely by proving that the landlord has committed a rent repayment order offence.”