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Judges rule that the council’s HMO licence fees are unlawful

Landlords may be overpaying shared house licensing fees and could claim hundreds of pounds in refunds from local councils, according to a ruling from the High Court.

The shock decision came from a legal challenge by landlord Peter Gaskin, who refused to pay £1,799 house in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing costs imposed by Richmond Council, London.

Gaskin rents out rooms in several properties, including a shared house in Richmond. When he applied to renew his licence, the council demanded a fee that included a charge for running the council’s HMO licensing scheme and a payment for processing his application.

Gaskin agreed to pay the processing fee but refused to hand over the additional cost. The council prosecuted him for renting out rooms in an HMO without a licence. Gaskin challenged the decision with a judicial review in the High Court.

There, three judges agreed the fee breached EU rules as Gaskin provided a service under the EU Directive 2006/123/EC (the Services Directive). The directive orders that the council could only charge an application fee for the licence and could not levy a payment towards the general management of the borough’s HMO licensing scheme.

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