Most landlords are unaware of a law change that can allow tenants to recoup up to a year’s rent payments.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contains a little-known clause that extended claims under rent repayment orders from local councils to tenants.

According to official figures, in the year until March, 48 tenants applied for an order with 13 approved by a residential property tribunal.

The orders tended to follow a conviction for a serious housing offence, but the scope of claiming under the act has changed.

The list of offences tenants can bring a case under includes:

  • Violence to secure entry
  • Unlawful eviction or harassment
  • Failing to comply with an improvement notice or prohibition order
  • Offences to do with managing an unlicensed rental home
  • A landlord breaking a banning order

“The most significant change is that tenants no longer require the local authority to bring a successful prosecution in a magistrate’s court for an application to be made. Previously, tenants were dependent 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.

“However, under the new regime tenants can now 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.”

Most last year’s approved orders related to landlords ignoring prohibition orders or failing to licence a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Tenants must prove a rent repayment order offence was committed within the past 12 months by a landlord. Claims for ongoing offences, such as failing to licence a rental home, can be made at any time the offence is still being committed, but any award is limited to the 12 months from the date a tenant started legal action.