Avoid fines and keep your license: 24/7 emergency contacts

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

02 January 2023

Mandatory rental licenses often include a legally enforceable clause giving tenants the right to emergency contact details that must be available 24/7.

Whether the emergency contact is the landlord, the letting agent, or contractors, the consequences of failing to provide it can be severe, including a large fine and potentially the license to rent being revoked indefinitely.

Mandatory licenses

HMO services advise that almost all mandatory licenses granted by local authorities include a clause such as the following:

“... Landlords should available during business hours and must respond within a reasonable period of time. If unavailable, tenants should be advised and given alternative contact details, particularly as it is clearly also in the Landlord’s interest to be able to respond quickly in an emergency." Southwark Council’s Private Rental Standards

Failure to provide emergency contact details can result in the Council issuing the landlord or agent a Civil Penalty Notice. Under this notice, a fine of up to £30,000 can be charged without the need for prosecution through the court system. While in most cases, the license holder will be the landlord, the letting agents may also be liable if they have taken on the responsibility as part of their agency services to the landlord.

Can landlords appeal?

The landlord or agent can appeal and have their case heard by a First-Tier Tribunal. Should the appeal be allowed, and the Council wishes to overturn the decision, then the judicial process dictates that the Upper Tribunal will hear the case next. The Upper Tribunal will decide whether or not to confirm the decision.

The case reaching this point will be subject to media scrutiny, and any decision made by the Upper Tribunal will be binding.

However, the provision of emergency contact numbers in many Councils’ licensing conditions makes it highly unlikely that an appeal would be considered to have the merit to be heard by a First-Tier Tribunal; such a condition is likely to be viewed as reasonable and accepted as good practice by the Tribunal.

Not just for emergency repairs

Having emergency contact with the licence holder is important in the case of a property falling into a state where continuing to occupy it would be a risk to health. Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) at local authorities are trained to assess imminent risks of serious harm. 

EHOs decide whether there is any way to temporarily reduce health risks. If there is not, they can issue an emergency prohibition that bars occupiers from living in a property until improvements are made. In this case, the licence holder is required to arrange safe and suitable accommodation or approve an emergency hotel accommodation for the occupiers. 

Consequences of non-compliance

The likely consequence of non-compliance with licensing regulations is that the licence holder has a civil penalty notice issued against them. The specific penalty and fines imposed will depend on the policies of individual authorities. This could be up to £30,000 for failing to comply with the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

In the most extreme cases of neglect of duty or if there is a pattern of poor management, a licence holder may have their licence revoked. Where two civil penalty notices are issued, the local authority may apply for a banning order which would prohibit the licence holder, be they a landlord or letting agent, from managing any rental properties. 

At this point, the licence holder could also be entered into the Rogue Landlord database. This will have a huge financial impact and operational implications; the ability to hold licences going forward will be difficult, and new licences are unlikely to be granted.

How to provide 24/7 emergency contact easily

To avoid the consequences of non-compliance, provide a list of trusted, landlord-approved contractors who are willing to attend to out-of-hours emergencies in the area at short notice. Consider choosing contractors with access to the necessary keys or relevant key-holding services.

Examples of contractors you should include:

  • Alarm engineers
  • Plumbers for leaks
  • Heating engineers
  • Roofers
  • Locksmiths 
  • Electricians
  • Drainage Technicians 
  • Pest control

Alternatively, you can have a single point of contact that is available out-of-hours and can take care of emergency requests for you 24/7. Find out about how Fixflo’s Contractor Marketplace can transform your out-of-hours coverage by automating contractor send-outs by requesting a demo today.

Contractor Marketplace_featured image-1



This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
These blog posts are the work of Fixflo and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In summary, you are welcome to re-publish any of these blog posts but are asked to attribute Fixflo with an appropriate link to www.fixflo.com. Access to this blog is allowed only subject to the acceptance of these terms.

Jonty Shepheard

By Jonty Shepheard

02 January 2023

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