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Councils blasted for telling tenants to ignore eviction orders

31 May 2016

Councils blasted for telling tenants to ignore eviction orders
Housing minister Brandon Lewis has ordered councils to stop telling tenants they cannot be housed as homeless if they leave a buy to let home after the landlord has threatened eviction.

In a letter to all council chief executives, the minister clearly instructs them to cease making tenants undergo court action before they can qualify as homeless.

Council housing officers have long faced criticism from landlords and housing organisations about forcing tenants to ignore eviction notices and to remain in their home if they want to be treated as homeless.

The practice flies in the face of the Homelessness Code of Guidance which councils are required to follow by law.

“Councils should not routinely advise tenants to stay until bailiffs turn up,” said Lewis. “There is nothing stopping them helping tenants before bailiffs are involved and councils could miss a chance to avoid someone being made homeless if they act sooner.”

Lewis agrees that failing to step in early in the eviction process means landlords face extra costs and tenants face weeks of stress resulting from court action.

The minister revealed he receives a lot of correspondence on this topic.

“The guidance is clear on how councils should act if the tenant has received a Section 21 notice,” he said in the letter.

“Housing authorities should not insist on a court order for possession in every case and no council should have a blanket policy in this respect.

“The guidance also explains that if a landlord is seeking possession and the tenant has no prospect of a defence to the application, then it is unlikely to be reasonable for the tenant to continue to stay in the property.”

He adds that unless a local authority has strong reasons to depart from the statutory guidance, tenants should not be placed in the position of waiting for bailiffs.

A Section 21 notice is a notice to quit in two months served by a landlord who wants possession of a home let on an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.