Landlord Fined £12,500 for Ignorance of Law – A Wake-Up Call for Property Owners
In a recent legal case, a London landlord duo learned a harsh lesson about the consequences of ignorance when it comes to landlord laws. Their failure to comply with the long-established selective licensing scheme in Waltham Forest cost them dearly, as they were ordered to repay their former tenants, Amanda and Miroslav Jesensky, a staggering £12,500 via a Rent Repayment Order. This incident serves as a stark reminder that being unaware of the law is not a valid defense, and landlords must be well-versed in their legal obligations.
The Ignorance Defense: A Costly Mistake
Mohammed and Ghazala Butt, the landlords in question, rented out their East London property to the Jesensky couple for almost a decade. During this period, the property was subject to two successive selective licensing schemes, which were widely promoted by the council through various means, including advertising, mail-shots, and information on the council’s website.
The revelation that the property had not been licensed under the selective licensing scheme during the tenants’ occupation led to the successful claim by the Jesenskys for a Rent Repayment Order. The Butts attempted to use the defense of innocence, blaming the council for not informing them of their statutory duty to license the property. However, the Property Tribunal hearing rejected this defense and stressed that ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse, citing the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
A Serious Undertaking: Landlords’ Responsibilities
The judges were candid in their response to the Butts, emphasizing the gravity of being a landlord. They stated that being a landlord means holding the lives of tenants and their families in one’s hands, and as such, it is a serious undertaking. Landlords are obligated to familiarise themselves with the legal requirements they are subject to and cannot remain silent or wait until local authorities catch up with them.
The Importance of Compliance and Education
This case highlights the importance of compliance and education for landlords. Failing to comply with licensing schemes or other legal obligations can result in severe financial repercussions, as experienced by the Butts. Ignorance is not an acceptable defense when tenants’ rights and safety are at stake.
In this instance, the Butts were fortunate in that the claim against them was reduced due to it being a ‘first offense,’ and the judges took their financial position into consideration. However, this outcome should serve as a warning to all landlords to take their responsibilities seriously and stay informed about the laws governing their properties.
The story of the London landlord duo serves as a valuable lesson for all property owners. Ignorance of the law is no defense, and landlords must be proactive in understanding and complying with the legal requirements applicable to their properties. Failure to do so can lead to substantial financial penalties and potentially harm the lives of their tenants. As the legal landscape evolves, it is crucial for landlords to stay updated and prioritize the well-being of their tenants above all else. By doing so, they can ensure a harmonious and lawful relationship with their renters while safeguarding their own interests.