Question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy

Question regarding Local Authority Homeless policy

16:06 PM, 15th August 2012, About 9 years ago 81

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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



Comments

by

13:12 PM, 18th August 2012, About 9 years ago

As a Landlord I have a lot of sympathy with both your AND your tenants position. I used to work for Shelter giving legal advice to tenants & this used to happen in Torbay (& elsewhere). I suggest you contact also any local housing advice service as they will support you from the tenants side. Press / political pressure is often the most effective . . .

by

15:08 PM, 18th August 2012, About 9 years ago

In the past we have worked with councils, sometimes housing people at their request. Then, about two years ago it all changed. Yes, we have experienced councils advising tenants to stay in the property until we get the bailiff along. Result? We no longer work with councils. We view them as another hurdle in the path to making an honest living by supplying an in demand product, housing. Red tape, regulation and absolutely no support of the law means that we are now slowly getting out of property and moving in to other less regulated areas. Housing shortage? Let government and councils sort it out. Lets us see what they are really made of.

by

15:52 PM, 18th August 2012, About 9 years ago

Would that be the same LA that advises scummy non-rent paying thieves to stay in your property free of charge until the bailiffs turn up costing you hundreds of pounds?

by

23:57 PM, 18th August 2012, About 9 years ago

You have hit the nail on the head, the councils are the LL enemy
A council will do everything it can to not pay rent to a LL.
This will become more so when UC comes in as then the DWP will be reponsible.
You won't even be able to talk to the DWP!
Councils view the PRS LL as a necessary evil and are not minded to assist a PRS LL to receive the due LHA.

by

0:29 AM, 19th August 2012, About 9 years ago

3 Mallard Court, John Dyde Close, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, CM23 3BD
Phone no 07971694622
I would charge substantially more IF I was going to assist a tenant to try and obtain a council house ahead of the queue.
I would want thousands.
Of course they would never have the money so I would never assist.
I'd also like to rob Fort Knox but I never will.
Let's discuss how it might be done!!
I'd like to do lots of things but won't be able to.
Actions are what count, conjecture counts for nothing, it is by it's very nature simplistic discussion.
We are not at the 'Minority Report' stage yet!!!!
Good talking about the possibilty though.
Discussion does not indicate any judgement whatsoever.
I have made judgements on lots of things in life.
Following DISCUSSION I find that such judgement was not the best and then I make a new judgement.
Regarding assisting a tenant to jump the queue for council housing; I doubt very much whether it would work.
I am presently waiting for answers from the council to see how the system works.
Then I will have to see whether any intent is worth it to morph into action.
Somehow I doubt it.
After all what have LHA claimants done for me apart from rip me off.
I have looked at the prima facie case and I believe there are too many downsides to even consider assisting a LHA claimant to jump the queue for council housing.
The whole point of this DISCUSSION was about how councils resolve homelessness, what is the qualifying criteria.
One can suggest all sorts of things as part of discussion.
It doesn't mean you are going to do it.
So lets have discussion as to how the system works and how are tenants if at all able to work the system to jump the housing queue.
That is the part that interests me.
I would like to know how one does it.
This will tell you what is so wrong with council housing policy of housing on the basis of NEED and not on how long you have been on the list for.
NEED should be got rid of.
He who is on the list higher up gets first dibs ahead of anyone who is in greater housing need.
This NEED basis is why housing is such a divisive issue as everyone can see or know of people who have been on the housing list for years and have been jumped over by some Somali or EU migrant.
Knowing how to become that NEED to jump the queue would be very useful information.
If people who have queued for years for a council property are knocked down the list by newcomers then I see nothing wrong., if appropriate to ensure that the system is worked so that fairness breaks out and the ones on the list the longest get first choice.
Personally I doubt very much whether it is achievable but it merits DISCUSSION

by

1:27 AM, 19th August 2012, About 9 years ago

yep !! that'll do it.

nice to see whatever happens....we still have a sense on humour.

by

2:28 AM, 19th August 2012, About 9 years ago

Thanks for that reply, most of it went over my head.
sorry but I am just a little old LLwith no in-depth knowledge of law etc.
I glean what I can from HMCS sites and forums as I can't afford legal advice.
I've done OK so far, but I would much prefer free legal advice and assitance!
Sp perhaps a little plain English.
I think I know what you are referring to but not absolutely.
I like to know exactly the way things are before I take courses of action

by Adam Zeeblebum

18:40 PM, 20th August 2012, About 9 years ago

Hi all
Before I start this post, the content cannot necessarily be applied to reasons for homelessness other than 'Served with a Section 21 notice' nor to areas of the UK other than England.
So...in response to the OP...
"My local authority advises tenants to ignore section 21 notices and to stay in the property until a court order / bailiffs arrive. 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."
One of the things that I think is difficult for private landlords (PLs) in situations such as this is that they are very unlikely to know precisely what advice their tenant has been given. I think it would be rare for a homelessness applicant to give their consent for their case/application to be discussed with their current landlord, beyond what is necessary to be satisfied that the Section 21 notice is valid, find out why the notice was served, and obtain a reference from that landlord (or – ideally
but perhaps optimistically –safeguard/preserve the tenancy).
What this means is that in most cases the PL is reliant upon what the tenant tells them they have been advised to do. I’m not suggesting that the tenant is being deliberately misleading, although that will no doubt sometimes be the case. But the tenant may have misinterpreted the advice they have been given, or it may not have been explained clearly and communicated effectively by the local authority homelessness service (LAHS).
Further, it would be unlikely that the LAHS would ‘advise’ the applicant to pursue a particular course of action. Rather, they would inform the tenant of their options, including what they are legally entitled to do, and explain what the possible consequences of those options might be. If this has been done well, the tenant will then be in a position to make an informed decision about what to do. Any actions that the tenant decides to take may or may not be supported by the LAHS, depending on the need or desire for that support.
The LAHS would also explain to the applicant that, if they decide to remain in the property beyond the expiry date of the Section 21 notice, they would still be liable to pay rent, and that failure to do so would further prejudice their options for finding alternative accommodation. The LAHS, possibly in cooperation with the local authority's Housing Benefits service, do what it could to support and encourage the tenant in continuing to pay rent.
On the decision that a LAHS might make on a homelessness application in this situation, I think the first thing to state – as other people have already done – is that they are perfectly entitled
to make a ‘not homeless’ decision, as long as that decision is properly and fully considered and explained.
The other thing, which has also been clarified by others, is that the tenant does have a legal right to remain in the property beyond the expiry date of the Section 21 notice, and until such time as a warrant for possession is executed (following the granting of an order for possession by the court). When making a decision on whether or not an applicant is homeless (or, more accurately in this case, threatened with homelessness), the LAHS will consider a number of different things.

In the situation we are discussing, the LAHS will – broadly speaking – consider three things:
- Does the applicant have a legal right to occupy the accommodation?
- Can the applicant secure entry to the accommodation?
- Is it reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the accommodation?

In straightforward terms, if the answers to all those three questions are ‘yes’, the applicant would be ‘not homeless’; and if any of the answers is ‘no’, the applicant would be ‘homeless’. Additionally, if the answers to all three questions are currently ‘yes’ but that is likely to change within 28 days, the applicant would be ‘threatened with homelessness’.
So, in this situation, unless…
a) there is another reason why the applicant needs and/or wants to leave the property, other than it is the landlord’s wish that they do so; and/or
b) the applicant is no longer able to secure entry to the accommodation because, for example, the landlord has effected an illegal eviction
…what we are really looking at here is a ‘threat’ of homelessness and, specifically, whether or not it would be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the property beyond the expiry date of the Section 21 notice.
And this is where it gets more complicated. “There is no simple test of reasonableness. It is for the housing authority to make a judgement based on the facts of each case, taking into
account the circumstances of the applicant” (CLG, 2006 – link below).

Some of the considerations are…
§ the general housing circumstances prevailing in the area
§ the affordability of the accommodation
§ the scope for preventing homelessness
§ the availability of alternative accommodation
§ the general cost to the housing authority
§ the position of the tenant
§ the position of the landlord
§ the likelihood that the landlord will
actually proceed with possession proceedings
§ the burden on the courts of unnecessary proceedings where there is no defence to a possession claim
§ the physical characteristics of the accommodation
§ the type of accommodation
§ the possibility of collusion between the landlord and the tenant to take advantage of homelessness legislation
In this situation, there would be nothing illegal about a LAHS making a ‘not homeless’ decision based on a full and proper consideration of relevant factors, and subsequently advising the applicant accordingly.
“I know that the 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.”
That’s not entirely accurate, although it’s not far off. Other people have covered this in their
responses. Paragraph 8.32 of the 2006 ‘Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities’ has been cited. Here’s a link to the Code of Guidance:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/homelessnesscode
It might be worth also looking at paragraph’s 8.14-8.15 and 8.30-8.32a.
“If the tenant does not do this [stay in the property] my council deems the tenants to have made themselves voluntarily homeless and they will get no help with rehousing.”
The word that would be used is ‘intentionally’ rather than ‘voluntarily’. I say that to avoid any confusion, since I’ll be using ‘intentionally’ (and variations) when I post.
If a LAHS made a ‘not homeless’ decision, the applicant could ask for that decision to be reviewed, in the belief that it is not in fact reasonable for them to continue to occupy the property.

If the tenant leaves the property, and the LAHS makes an ‘intentionally homeless’ decision, that can also be reviewed, on the basis that it would not have been reasonable for them to have continued to occupy the accommodation.
‘Intentionality’ is a tricky beast, and it would be difficult for a LAHS to provide robust evidence to satisfy all the different aspects of intentional homelessness. Recently, however, courts have been upholding Council’s initial and review decisions, unless the Council has erred in law, on the basis that the Council was entitled to reach that decision based on the facts. [Having said that, I’d be grateful if any hovering legal specialists could confirm that, or shed some more light on it.]
The other thing to note about an ‘intentionally homeless’ decision is that it presupposes that the applicant is in priority need. If the applicant is not in priority need, the issue of intentionality would not be considered for the purposes of making a decision on a homelessness application. [It may, however, still be considered when it comes to allocating properties. It could also be considered if the local authority wished to exercise its power (not duty) to secure that accommodation is
available for occupation for an applicant who was not in priority need.]
Even if someone is found to be intentionally homeless, the local authority still has a duty “to ensure that the applicant is provided with advice and assistance in any attempts he or she may make to secure that accommodation becomes available for his or her occupation”.
Finally on intentionality, even if the applicant remains in the property until the execution of a warrant for possession, it is still possible that they will be found to be homeless (or threatened with homelessness) intentionally. This would depend on the reasons why the Section 21 notice was served.
“It is such a problem that it has now been given its own term – gatekeeping.”
This wouldn’t be ‘gatekeeping’.
Gatekeeping is the term given to the refusal (either implicitly or explicitly) to take or accept a homelessness application and/or to fulfil a duty to provide interim accommodation. It can also refer to delaying to do the above.
Basically, it’s about a LAHS not meeting its legal obligations as set out in housing and homelessness legislation.
[And I may be being overly cautious here, but because this is a sensitive and emotive subject (legally as well as for other reasons), and just in case it becomes apparent which local authority I work for, all the comments I make are my own opinion, and are not intended to reflect the views of my employer nor of any other LAHS. Neither should any of my comments be taken necessarily as an accurate statement of housing and homelessness legislation.]

by Adam Zeeblebum

1:42 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

Hi Alan
The previous comments aren't necessarily correct. The key thing is whether or not the landlord (who is also a close relative) also lives in the same property as the tenant.
If the landlord does live in the property with the tenant, that's a problem.
However, I gather from your post that that's not the case, and a tenant whose landlord is a close relative is entitled to claim and receive Housing Benefit - as long as the tenant and the landlord are not living in the same property.
The two key things are:
- that it is a commercial arrangement (the agreement would need to be enforceable in law)- that the local authority is satisfied that the arrangement was not set up to take advantage of the Housing Benefit scheme.
It is for the claimant/landlord to prove the agreement is a commercial one and for the local authority to show that the tenancy is set up to abuse the system.
Whilst it's perfectly legitimate for a tenant to claim Housing Benefit if their landlord is a close relative, the local authority is likely to want more information and evidence about the agreement to satisfy itself that it is commercial, enforceable in law and not set up to take advantage of the Housing Benefit scheme.

by Adam Zeeblebum

3:51 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

Hi Paul
I'm not going to answer your question specifically for two reasons.
Firstly, you answered it yourself anyway, which seems to indicate that you wouldn't be very interested in my response. Secondly, your entire post is tinged with racism (and tinged is putting it mildly), and I 'm very uncomfortable having any discussion that starts out in that fashion.
However, there are three things I'm going to say that other people might be interested in.
The example in Paul's post of a single person competing on the housing register with a family with dependent children is moot. A single person will never be 'bumped down' the list by a family with dependent children. They're not competing for the same properties.
Housing need is the cornerstone of a fair and effective allocations policy, and has been for a long time. It certainly predates the Labour Party's victory in the 1997 general election. It would be ridiculous, incredibly punitive and very socially and economically damaging to have it any other way.
Finally, independent research undertaken for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission by by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that there is no bias in allocation of social housing to immigrants, and found no evidence to support the perception that new migrants are getting priority over UK born residents. Here's the link to more information and the full report:
http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2009/july/research-finds-no-bias-in-allocation-of-social-housing/


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