Question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy

by Readers Question

16:06 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

Question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy

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Question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy

I have a property related question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy.

My local authority advises tenants to ignore section 21 notices and to stay in the property until a court order / bailiffs arrive. If the tenant does not do this my council deems the tenants to have made themselves voluntarily homeless and they will get no help with re-housing.

I think this must be illegal as well as morally wrong as the tenant is only legally entitled to stay until the date on the section 21. Surely their actions are inducing my tenants to break a valid legal contract, they are interfering in a contract between me and my tenant, and their advice is causing me loss.

I know that Government does not like them doing this and advises them that Homelessness occurs once a section 21 is due to expire as long as it is valid and the landlord has a clear intention of enforcing it. It is such a problem that it has now been given it’s own term – gatekeeping. The council gets no benefit from this policy other than a short term gain, they still end up helping the tenants but just delay it by a couple of weeks. In the long term they shoot themselves in the foot because they now have a tenant on their books for life who will never be able to use the private rental sector because of his poor references due to the legal action.

I have complained about this before with my council but never had the time to take it any further. This time I have made a formal complaint and have a meeting on Monday with them.

What do you think? Do you know of any acts, quotes, references that you know may help my case?

Kind regards

Steve G


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Ben Reeve-Lewis

16:38 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

The defining case law on these kinds
of decisions is:-

Regina v. Croydon LBC ex parte
Jarvis

Jarvis had been served with a
section 21 notice and made a homeless application. Croydon decided she was not
homeless because it was reasonable for her to remain until the landlord had
obtained possession.

Jarvis challenged this decision
which she said was in contravention of the then homelessness code of guidance
(2002)which said a homelessness unit should not put a tenant through possession
action if there was a chance of the landlord being successful. There is still
similar guidance in the existing code (2006) but the code of guidance is only
that….guidance, its not a rule book.

The judge in the High Court found
for the council, saying the council had correctly taken into account both the
landlord and the tenant’s position. They had also considered its own position
in relation to providing accommodation and the circumstances of other people in
the district, and because all sides had been properly weighed up they were
entitled to make a not homeless decision.

Judge Collins’ words are helpful
here:-

“I am not saying that in all circumstances a council can say ‘wait until
you are evicted’. It is lawful for
them to adopt that attitude if they consider all the individual circumstances”
– “I do not say that the same would necessarily apply in other cases where
proper reasons were not given”

Now what this tells us is that
a council is perfectly entitled to reach a not homeless decision as long as
they consider the positions of all parties involved and account for that in
their decision making.

The vast majority of people
approaching a homelessness unit are doing so with a section 21 and as the
vast majority of tenancies these days are ASTs that means that 90% of the
people walking through the door want picking up and accommodating for the same
reason.

If a person is legally homeless
(they don’t have to be roofless) then the council has a duty to provide
accommodation, even on a temporary basis. Councils don’t have anywhere near
enough places to put people as it is.

It is absolute nonsense to expect
local authorities to pick up every single person who approaches waving a s21. No
homelessness units in the country would last a single week before running out
of accommodation.

This is what the high court took
into account. All homelessness units have to consider the prevailing
circumstances in their district. For instance if a person claims they are
homeless because they are overcrowded but hundreds of other families are
similarly overcrowded because of a housing shortage then the council will and
is entitled to, make a not homeless decision.

If a person claims they are homeless
because their property is run down and dilapidated but so are many others in
the area then they will not be considered homeless.

If the world and his wife are
presenting as homeless with a s21 then they wont be homeless because so is
every other poor sod in the district too.

Added to this the fact that councils
have a statutory responsibility for the public money they are spending and you
start to see what the judge in Jarvis was getting at.

Councils have to take into account
the accommodation they have available, the amount of cases approaching with the
same reason in the district and their responsibility for public money.

I have written on this before.
Councils are not there to bail landlords out of an unwanted position. Nobody
twists a landlords arm to let to a tenant and they shouldn’t expect special
assistance when every landlord is in the same boat.

I don’t know where your council is
and to be honest rural authorities often have more accommodation relative to
the amount of people making applications for homelessness assistance but if
yours in an inner city council I would be very, very surprised if you can get
past Jarvis.

Good luck with it.

17:28 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

for this reason alone I feel we, as landlords, should lobby government to make theft of accommodation as illegal as theft of a car.
both have value, both belong to someone else and both deprive the true owner access to his/her property.

please lets start with this. we have these 'tools of communication', lets start using them.

17:57 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

Councils - hmm - aren't those the bodies that are allowed to make laws up to criminalise people who don't give them the bags of their money they just fancy having. Which is quite handy becasue they can also use their own police force to drag them to court if they don't pay - their own court in fact. That's ok though becasue they can for instance link it to a 'license' say, which if you operate without you are a very very bad person - becasue their laws say so.
Of course councils themselves are 'not bad' when they break laws to not pay money (as in this example) because they can't use their own police to drag themselves to their own courts - so not a problem.
The above generically applies to anything and everything - like hmos for landlords.
When is central government going to take control back from these cowboy states, put the countries mayors in the tower of london, and give their combined salaries to me. On a serious note though I do think the whole thing with councils is out of hand and someone needs to do something as they are running amock.
The more rope they are given, the more they take the mick. They are intrusive, controlling and self governing in a way and style that they cannot be trusted with and it's getting worse. The average person's life is most negatively effected / stress linked to council's activities from my hearsay. Most aspects of council can be traced back to this concerning modern phenomenon. Sherrif of nottingham etc. - we're right back there.

Mark Alexander

18:14 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

Here's a thought for you, similar scenario but related to car hire. If a person who is on benefits, no assets, no job etc. goes and rents a car and then never takes it back what happens? Presumably the Police get called and the car is eventually recovered? Presumably the hire company then charge penalties for the overdue rental? What happens if the person who hired the car then moves address though? Does the car hire company chase them or write off the debt? I'd assume they chase. What then happens if they can't find the person or if they do the hirer then declares bankruptcy, has the hirer committed a criminal offence?

Ben Reeve-Lewis

18:26 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

I’m sorry Gerald but you are displaying an astonishing level
of ignorance here.

Councils cannot make laws. Statutes are created by parliament,
the people we vote into power. Councils
then have to act within those laws even if they think they are stupid.

“Which is quite handy because they can also
use their own police force to drag them to court if they don't pay”

Councils have no control over or any legal
relationship with the Police force. In fact in 99% of illegal evictions I have
to deal with the Police side with the landlord and become complicit in
committing a criminal offence.

Just today I dealt with the case of a women
whose husband was ejected from the property under a court order for domestic
violence. The letting agent took the view that as she wasn’t on the tenancy
agreement she had no right to be there and tried to change the locks. She not
unsurprisingly called the Police to help her but they merely handcuffed her and
took her keys away. Frankly I wish the police would stay out of it.

If this is the level of your understanding
of the law and the role of councils in society I despair for the PRS

18:27 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

The issue I have with the system as it stands is that it forces tenants, many of whom are already in dire straits, to challenge un-winnable Court Proceedings and therefore have a costs order placed against them. This effectively means that the Local Authority WILL help you once you have an order for possession against you AND it has cost you anything between £95 and £1000 depending upon the way in which the Section 21 was managed. As mentioned before this route also means that the tenant has almost ZERO hope of re-entering the private rented sector due to referencing protocols.
Having seen first-hand the epic prices paid for building sites by Housing Associations and also being mindful of the top heavy construction and management costs they incur I have often thought that the private rented sector could do a much better job if it got the same level of support from the Government.
Housing is a prime example of how Landlord Licensing and the Big Society Initiative could take a huge amount of pressure off of Local Authorities.
Social problems would be reduced if housing stock was widespread rather than in 'blocks' which often get stigmatised.
Government should be helping those entrepreneurs who are actually solving a problem for them; not allowing the Courts to conspire with Local Authorities to disadvantage both Landlords and Tenants.

18:35 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

How about we start a campaign of advising our tenants that they don't actually need to pay their council tax. The council can't make them pay it - only a court can. The Homeless Officer at my council wrote to me saying " a tenant has a legal right to stay in the property past the section 21 expiry date and up until a court order or the bailiffs arrive". Based on this statement I guess we all have a legal right NOT to pay council tax until the court order or Bailiffs arrive.

Joe Bloggs

18:37 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

COULDNT AGREE MORE. LB NEWHAM AND THEIR BLANKET LICENSING SCHEME COME TO MIND AS WELL AS THEIR MAYOR WHO HAS GOT IT THROUGH CONSULTATION BY HOOK AND BY A CROOK! WHEN IS CENTRAL GOVERNMENT GOING TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST SOCIAL ENGINEERED IDEOLOGICALLY INSPIRED SCHEMES?

19:26 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

I also have served a section 21 on my tenant who is a single mum with child and she has been told by her council office that it is a legal requirement that she can stay in my property until I have a court order, which will cost me money what I want to know is will the council pay me back my cost no wonder most landlords in my town will not touch housing benefit tenants, I was the silly one to try and help the council out which has now given me egg on my face, how dare they not allow me to get my house back what is the point of having a tenancy agreement in the first place. Most landlords like me have good reason why they want the house back .

19:37 PM, 15th August 2012
About 8 years ago

Good comments here but have not mentioned that steve G is misinformed about the process. Serving a Section 21 (either 1 of the 2) merely informs the tenant that when 2 months (8 weeks) have expired the landlord can apply to the court for a possession order and certainly does not mean that the tenant must leave by this date.

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