Residential landlords who neglect their legal obligations to the point of criminality can be hit with banning orders that are likely to put them out of business. In a case of importance to property professionals, the Upper Tribunal (UT) for the first time considered an appeal against one such order.
The case concerned a woman who had been a landlord for over 30 years and owned 29 rental properties, many of them houses in multiple occupation. She specialised in letting to tenants who might otherwise find it difficult to obtain rented homes, including homeless, vulnerable or marginalised individuals. There was no reason to doubt that her motives in letting property were humanitarian rather than commercial.
However, the local authority had for a number of years been concerned about the quality of her management of her portfolio and had taken progressively more serious enforcement action against her. She ultimately pleaded guilty to eight offences in relation to three of her properties.
All but one of the offences related to contraventions of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006. Two of them concerned an absence of fire doors and most of the others related to individual items of disrepair or poor standards of maintenance or cleanliness. Although, when viewed individually, her offences were not of the most serious type, she was fined a total of £22,000.
After the council launched further proceedings, magistrates imposed a banning order under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. The order forbade her, for a period of five years, from letting housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work. She was given six months in which either to end her existing tenancies or to dispose of tenanted properties. Her appeal against the order was subsequently rejected by the First-tier Tribunal (FTT).
In dismissing her challenge to that outcome, the UT noted that this was the first occasion on which it had considered an appeal against a banning order. It found no error of law in the FTT's assessment of the seriousness of her offending. Also rejected was her argument that the magistrates had no power to ban her from continuing to manage properties which she had previously let and where the tenancies or licences were continuing.