International student nurses claim rent back from rogue landlord

Filipino nurses often come to work in the UK as students on the “Earn & Learn” schemes, where they gain specialised skills and help staff NHS hospitals.

Just like all students arriving from abroad, these nurses have to cope with the huge cultural change, language difficulties and, not least, accommodation problems in London.

Mary lived in a privately rented room in a shared house in Greenwich and worked as a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich. She shared the house with four other nurses.

The landlord had a contract with the NHS to supply accommodation for new arrivals like Mary. He demanded cash payments for the rent and was in a relationship with one of the women who lived in the house.

When the rent book that recorded the cash payments disappeared, Mary asked for receipts for her payments, or to make them by bank transfer. Not long after this she was evicted by the landlord by text message.

In England and Wales landlords can use Section 21 notice to evict tenants that are renting under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This can be done without a reason given. There is an ongoing campaign against this – #EndSection21.

Mary complied with the eviction but felt that it couldn’t be right. She said, “This wouldn’t have been allowed in the Phillippines”.

Researching online she realised that the house had not been licensed correctly and was being let illegally.

A rented property with three or more tenants in is known as a house in multiple occupancy (HMO). In the Royal Borough of Greenwich, it is a criminal offence to rent a HMO without a licence.

Mary said, “I didn’t know anything about HMO licences or rent repayment order prior my eviction. I was not familiar with gas certificates or other responsibilities of a landlord to his tenants before all these…because of that ignorance I was taken advantage of from day
one” [sic].

She also found out about Rent Repayment Orders (RROs). With a RRO you can apply to have up to 12 months rent repaid to you from your landlord if they are letting illegally.

But this needs to be proven in court. “I know I was telling the truth but to make someone from the court believe me is a whole other story.

“It felt like I was screaming inside and just wanted people to just see the truth… But it is not easy when you go to court. Everything boils down to evidence, which I thought I had enough until the other party denies it and presents a different version of the story.”

Mary contacted Flat Justice, the not-for-profit community interest company that specialises in helping tenants with RRO applications and who run the site Flat Justice helped her dispute claims prepared by the landlord’s barrister. Together they are arguing for 100% repayment of 12 months of her rent.

The help came at the right time for Mary, juggling case preparation with 12-hour nursing shifts. She said, “It was relentless and exhausting and a lot of times I thought of walking away myself and just forget I had ever met him and accept defeat. I felt trapped and helpless.”

Keep an eye on the blog at I was fighting an influential and powerful person, at least as far as this case goes.”

The Tribunal is due to issue its decision any day now: keep an eye on the blog at

London Student News Editor - born in London, now study here and judging by this pollution, probably going to die here too.

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