Local authority advise tenant to stay put

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  • Local authority advise tenant to stay put

    Has anyone had an experience of a local authority advising a tenant to stay in the property and wait until the landlord issues a court order for possession.

    My tenant's S21 has expired and I have started legal proceedings to get my house back. She has not paid any rent for 2 months but I may have to write that off. So I am having to pay legal costs of around £500 and meanwhile the tenant can stay rent free as she says the advice from the council is to stay in the house. If that advice has been given - is that legal or is it just so that the council do not have to rehouse yet? Thank you.

  • #2
    It is perfectly in order for a local authority to advise the tenant to stop in the house until the landlord gets a possession order - as it is the only legal way that a tenant can be evicted.

    What gets my goat is that some housing officers tell the tenant to stop in place AFTER the possession order has been granted and the date for possession expired and that they will not help until the landlord gets the bailiffs to actually do a physical eviction which of course heaps more expense onto the landlord. In my view, a housing officer who tells the tenant to break the law by ignoring the possession order date should be held in contempt of court - however, in practice that never happens.

    It has been known for housing officers to turn up at evictions with the keys to the evictee's new home!!!!!!


    • #3
      We got the same advice from the CAB, even the LL want us out by the end of March.
      They told us not to move out, before our property (where we move back)
      is definitely empty.


      • #4
        Although this used to be common practice by LA's, and indeed the tenant does have the right to stay in the property until the court grants possession (or even until the bailiff comes with a warrant), the code of guidance to local authorities was changed last year and LA's are now expected to act to help the tenant as soon as it is clear that possession would be granted rather than wait for the court hearing.


        • #5
          Take a look at the information given by Shelter on their website to tenants that apply to their local authorities for assistance with homelessness.

          It gives an idea of the process that a tenant goes through when they apply to them.

          Essentially, local councils will only help those that are defined as not making themselves intentionally homeless by moving out of a property ahead of being legally evicted. This is why tenants are told to stay put - they won't get any advice or housing.

          However, another aspect to the local authority's criteria is that they should not offer housing to those who make themselves intentionally homeless when they could have paid rent but did not.

          So I assume that when a landlord proves to the council that they are evicting the tenant for arrears that they don't get offered social housing?

          But if I recollect earlier an earlier, this isn't always the case, and some swan into cheap social housing as a reward for squandering their housing benefit rather than passing it onto the landord.


          • #6
            Thank you all for your advice. Interesting to note the new guidelines for councils to operate when dealing with the homeless. Does this mean that the council should take notice of a request for rehousing when the section 21 is issued and not wait for the court order.
            Do you think there is a chance of claiming the legal costs of court order/ and possibly bailiff from the council. Would the council ombudsman be support in this respect?

            I must ask this question as the answer is not obvious to me.
            Why can't the bailiffs be called in after the Section 21 runs out? What is the point of issuing notice in a section 21 if it does not mean anything? Thanks


            • #7
              The council's corporate ears will only prick up when a court order has been obtained. Until then the S21 notice is merely that, a notice - it is the legal proceedings which count UNLESS the tenant moves out at the expiry date of the S21 notice into other accommodation.

              You will be a first and a legal precedent if you manage to recover your court and bailiff fees from a council - these are both chargeable to your tenant as part of the court process and recoverable from the tenant.

              The bailiffs cannot act without a court order - you dont have one of those until you have issued a S21 summons and have the court order in your hands - only then can you call in the bailiffs AFTER the date for moving passes.

              May I respectfully and carefully suggest that if you dont know what you are doing per se the S21 notice or the court process - get help from someone that does.


              • #8
                This is what the code of guidance says:

                Each case must be decided on its facts, so housing authorities should not adopt a general policy of accepting – or refusing to accept – applicants as homeless or threatened with homelessness when they are threatened with eviction but a court has not yet made an order for possession or issued a warrant of execution. In any case where a housing authority decides that it would be reasonable for an applicant to continue to occupy their accommodation after a valid notice has expired – and therefore decides that he or she is not yet homeless or threatened with homelessness –
                that decision will need to be based on sound reasons which should be made clear to the applicant in writing (see Chapter 6 for guidance on housing authorities’ duties to inform applicants of their decisions). The Secretary of State considers that where a person applies for accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation,
                (a) the person is an assured shorthold tenant who has received proper notice in accordance with s.21 of the Housing Act 1988;
                (b) the housing authority is satisfied that the landlord intends to seek possession;
                (c) there would be no defence to an application for a possession order;
                then it is unlikely to be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the
                accommodation beyond the date given in the s.21 notice, unless the housing
                authority is taking steps to persuade the landlord to withdraw the notice or allow the tenant to continue to occupy the accommodation for a reasonable period to provide an opportunity for alternative accommodation to be found.


                • #9
                  legal issues

                  I doubt that action could be taken against the council, they do not have a contract with you nor is the court action against them, the case is between you and your tenant.

                  Having said that, it may be reasonable to take the issue up with The Local Government Ombudsman, but before they will look at the issues, you will need to make a formal complaint to the council and await their response.

                  Another route is to seek information from the council under the Freedom of Information Act, simply asking them how many tenants have been advised to ignore court orders may well get then to re-think their strategy.


                  • #10
                    on a side note if she is a good tenant apart from the lack of payment have you suggested to the council that they pay off the arrears in exchange for you allowing her to stay in the property? our council do this as there is such a shortage of housing.


                    • #11
                      If the council find out she has rent arrears they may well find her intentionally homeless and say they have no duty to house her anyway. If they think you just want the house back and it's not her fault she's being chucked out they will have a duty although unless she has kids she is unlikely to be in priority need.


                      • #12
                        A point worth mentioning here is that the code of guidance is just that - guidance only.

                        We have tried to challenge our LA on this matter a couple of times and they state they don't have to have regard to this but prefer to go on a court of appeal decision that stated a person wasn't homeless until a warrant had been obtained. They can consider that the tenant is threatened with homelessness but will not accept a full duty until the tenant is actually homeless. Mad , isn't it?
                        If your tenant is in receipt of housing benefit then you can request direct payments if they have arrears.


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