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Homelessness and what this means to Landlords…..

We are often faced with questions from Landlords and Agents about information they have received from Tenants about homelessness and the advice given by local authorities.

Often a Landlord/Agent will have had a good relationship with a tenant but for whatever reason the Landlord requires back the property. Assuming therefore that the Tenant occupies under an assured short hold tenancy generally (subject to the appropriate rules) the Landlord can obtain back possession by serving a valid Section 21 Notice upon the Tenant. This is a non fault ground and the Tenant should vacate at the expiry of the Notice.

Many tenants, particularly those in receipt of state benefits, will approach the Local Authority to see if they can access any form of social housing. Generally local authorities owe duties to people such as those with children or who suffer from some form of disability or illness. All too often these people will receive advice that they should simply remain in the property until such time as the Landlord has applied to the Court, obtained a Possession Order and then looked to enforce the same. The Tenant then finds themselves in the invidious position of having to explain this to the Landlord/Agent and explaining that if they do not comply with this advise then the Local Authority is likely to owe them no (or at best a limited ) duty to rehouse.

This of itself can lead to what previously was a good relationship breaking down but the Tenant often has little choice. Whilst arguably Local Authorities do not have to wait until an Order is made or a bailiffs appointment fixed for most this is the policy they have adopted. The duty potentially arises to rehouse if they believe that the Landlord does have a genuine intention to obtain back possession but most in our experience will not enter into dialogue with the Tenant or the Landlord/Agent until the Court progress is underway. Sadly this policy is difficult for a Tenant to challenge.

With the changes to Housing Benefit it is likely that Agents and Landlords will come across this far more frequently. It is perhaps worth trying to understand the position Tenants find themselves in. If they remain in the property the Local Authority may rehouse them (although some do not even properly assess the Tenants rights and claim until the proceedings are underway) but if they simply leave then the Tenant will receive no support. For Landlords and Agents the way forward is perhaps to engage with local authorities and Councilors to get them to look again at the policy although sadly given the shortage of accommodation most Local Authorities are unlikely to change their policies.

4 Comments

  • This has been the situation as long as I have been doing repossession work. It causes enormous frustration among landlords I know.

    But if a tenant wishes to be rehoused by the Local Authority then a landlord is foolish if he does anything other than start proceedings for possession as soon as possible, and move them forward as swiftly as he can.

    He is not doing the tenant any favours by delaying this, as it is the only way the tenant has any chance of being rehoused.

    I would have thought the chances of local authorities rehousing a tenant before they have to, in the current housing shortage, is close to zero.

  • Luke McElligott 19th September 2011 at 8:04 am

    Yes I thought this was a good idea once too, but it won’t work. I was in the middle of an argument with my LA about precisely this when trying to remove a tenant under S21, when another dept of the LA called em to as if I could assist them with their housing shortage under a head lease scheme. I offered to help if they could guarantee that they wouldn’t insist tenants push legitimate landlords to court action, but no chance.

    I cannot see how this can be legal – the tenant rightly has to leave, OK so it takes a court order to prove the S21 is valid etc, but this is akin to saying don’t pay your bills until the creditor proves you owe it through the courts. Would an LA get away with the equivalent advice in debt counselling?

  • Jo 19th September 2011 at 4:09 pm

    This is very frustrating and more and more people are being told to do this.
    We have a tenant in this situation at present. She has agreed for an solicitors charges to be taken from her deposit, is this correct?
    I am going to goto the council and see if I can speak to someone, not just about his person, but about what they are advising other tenants to do.
    Anyone else got problems?

    • PainSmith 20th September 2011 at 8:32 pm

      If the tenancy agreement has a clause in the agreement which allows the landlord to recover fees then that is acceptable but also when the tenant makes an offer to pay costs then certainly this is acceptable and if there is nothing in the agreement then get the offer in writing.

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