Following pressure from National Landlords Association (NLA) about tenants being told to ignore eviction notices by their local councils, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has written to all councils in England to clarify central guidance on homelessness.
The NLA conducted research earlier this year which showed an alarming number of private tenants being told by their local council to just ignore eviction notices served by their landlords. Not only that, they were to wait for bailiffs to turn up before moving out – this in order to qualify for rehousing support.
According to the NLA it has consistently warned that the advice was increasingly common where councils were refusing to accept tenants’ housing applications before an order for possession has been granted by a Court, and in some cases a bailiff has evicted. This is despite guidance from Central Government that confirms all housing applications should be accepted from the time a valid Section 21 notice is served on the tenant.
Mr Lewis’ letter states:
“The statutory Homelessness Code of Guidance, which local authorities are required by law to have regard to, is clear on this matter.
“It contains guidance on how authorities should treat homelessness applications in circumstances where a tenant has received a valid S21 notice.
“It says that housing authorities should not, in every case, insist upon a court order for possession and that no local authority should adopt a blanket policy in this respect.
“Unless a local authority has very good reason to depart from the statutory guidance, then they should not be placing households in this position.”
Others point out that councils are put under enormous pressure from central government not to take on homeless tenants. Here’s a sample of public posts on the issue from the NLA’s website:
“…this is apparent movement but the wiggle room is huge. Here the council is overwhelmed and appointments are weeks after the first contact. In reality here the council has almost no housing stock available and relies on us in the PRS to fill the gap or its bedsit land for the tenant.”
“We are in the process of evicting a tenant through a section 21 notice. The following advice was given by Hastings Borough Council last week. It indicates that the council could support the tenant if they are able to find suitable alternative housing themselves. I personally believe that this advice should be more heavily communicated to tenants because if we have to end up evicting our tenant finally via bailiff’s then we are unlikely to work with the council again in housing their tenants. The council can support tenants in offering loans and deposits upfront if they are active in finding alternative accommodation…..”
“If your tenant has been issued with a section 21 Notice she needs to seek advice from the Housing Options team based at the contact centre in Hastings Town Hall as soon as possible.
“The Options team will advise her that she should actively look for alternative suitable accommodation. Hastings Borough Council may be able to assist with a loan towards either Deposit or Rent in Advance.
“Under Housing Law a tenant must be advised that if they leave their accommodation before being evicted through the courts or securing a suitable alternative then they could be found to have made themselves “Intentionally Homeless” and may not get any assistance from Hastings Council.”
See also this article – Editorial February 2016