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

5:56 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

There is no racism here whatsoever; any non-British citizen , from wherever they come from who is given precedence in council housing over a British citizen is wrong.
It is not fair.
British council houses should go to British citizens.
This means pure British citizens should take precedence over dual-nationality citizens.
Are you saying fairness is racist!?
I have no issue with housing anyone apart from British citizens in council housing providing that British citizens have precedence and have been housed first in cheap council housing.
If these other types cannot obtain council accommodation they will have to enter the PRS.
I see no reason why the tax-payer should pay for subsidised houses for non-British citizens.
No logical person could disagree with that hypothesis.
To call such a scenario as racist is clearly stupid.
We must put our own citizens 1st to receive benefits.
Is it it your suggestion that my taxes go to house anybody who turns up on these shores expecting free everything!!!?
I think not.
To suggest that it is racist to suggest that British citizens should be given priority in social housing is bizarre.
You might like to throw your tax pounds at non-British citizens; I don't and if that makes me a racist then fine I am a racist and proud of it.
Personally I think I am considering the financial probity of the govt as it spends our money on the needs of it's citizens.
Note that it's citizens are it's priority, not some Spanish, French , Lithuanian. Polish.American, etc, etc citizen.
We should only have council house obligations to sole British nationality citizens.
I don't have any issue with non-British citizens entering this country, though I would prefer an Australian type immigration system and I would wish to stop the free movement of labour within the EU or rather to be able to enter the UK without passing a points system.
We do NOT need cheap EU labour, we have plenty of our own unemployed that could do all the jobs these EU immigrants have taken.
Seem to remmber Mr G Brown calling a northern lady, a certain Mrs Duffy, a bigot for expresiing concerns about the amount of EU migration.
G Brown, what happened to him!?
Would you describe Mrs Gillian Duffy as racist!?
Possibly YOU would?
Your opnions are at complete variance with the vast amonunt of UK public opinion.
You must live in a dream world if you think that council accommodation is NOT given to migrants who should be way down any council housing list ahead of those who are up the list.
There are more than enough sole British citizens to take ALL types of council housing ahead of ANY migrant.
Yet the evidence is clearly out there despite what your silly report suggests, Everyone knows that non-British citizens ARE given priority in acommodation over British citizens.
I'll take you to Newham and Hackney and show you streets of them.
As a country we should have responsibilities to our citizens first, not to economic migrants.
Of course GENUINE cases of political asylum etc. deserve our assistance.
The Somali who crossed 2 continents claiming asylum with his 7 children did NOT need to come to Britain to be safe from persecution.
What is wrong with bordering countries to Somalia.
They are politically stable
Of course would he have been given a big house and all other benefits had he moved over the border; NO, which is why he came here.
He knew you get everything for free here, and he is.
This is why so many try to reach here,
You can't blame them.
If I was a migrant suffering economic stress, I would do everything I could to reach Treasure Island UK.
I would claim Political asylum aswell, I would do anything I could to get on the UK benefit system.
That is the reality of the situation and I don't see why limited resources should be spent on these people when we should be putting SOLE BRITISH citizens first.
I fail to see how you think refusing non-British citizens priority in housing would be socially and economically detrimental!!!!!!?
You live in a different world to me.
Yours is not the one that the vast of the UK population inhabit!!

by

7:35 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

You are incredibly naive if you think tenants won't work the system to obtain council accommodation.
A tenant may stop passing on LHA for 2 months before a LL may claim direct payment of LHA; actually it is 1 month a 1 day if the AST states rent in advance as it is irrelevant whether the council pays LHA in arrears.
A lot of LL would then seek to obtain eviction of the tenant.
A tenant knows that all they have to do nothing until they receive the eviction notice.
They know the LL will seek direct payment of the LHA.
Then they go to the council with the eviction notice. and advise they will be homeless.
The council are obliged to house them despite what you think.
To my knowledge the fact that 2 months of LHA has not been passed on to the LL will not give rise to a tenant being denied homelessness status.
The council consider that LHA that has been paid to the tenant means rent has been paid.
Even though it it has not been passed to the tenant.
Even though it is the non-payment of rent for 2 months to the LL has caused the Section 21 and ultimate eviction. homelessness status will be allowed.
If you suggest that the 2 months of LHA not passed onto the LL would cause denial of homelessness status then savvy tenants will pay the LL just before being evicted..
Most LL would not even wish to retain a tenant who has failed to pass on LHA even if at the last moment the tenant pays the LHA before the eviction.
One tenant who would be in a the better position would be single female parents with children or single people over 35.
Thes people are far better off once they are in subsidised council accommodation.
Effectively they have a tenancy for life.
Parents will just knock out another child to avoid going to work and then they will recive a 2 bed property.
Immigrants are especially expert at working the system.
They know exactly how it works and manipulate it accordingly.
I appreciate a council may not have say a 2 bed flat in Hackney and they will offer a flat in say Milton Keynes.
Either way they jump the housing queue to get into generally good housing accommodation for life.
They are therefore no longer exposed to the PRS.
This is an ultmate aspiration as once you are in council accommodation you will be in receipt of free income support
free council tax
free NHS treatment
free NHS prescriptions
free care home
free pension
free housing benefit
free education
free schooling
You can live in an expensive area as a family up to the value of £26000.
That gives you a very pleasant lifestyle with no requirement to actually work.
Maybe supposedly be seeking work but that is just a lip service job.
We all saw the dole scams that were on dispatches.
Clever tenants will therefore continue to work the system.

by

8:38 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

If you have an AST for a close relative, how can that not be a valid contract.
How can renting to a relative on an AST be construed as taking advantage of the benefit system.
It is a perfectly valid AST.
An AST is enforceable and therefore how is that taking advantage of the housing benefit system.
A tenant is a tenant is a tenant.
Housing benefit forms ask the question as to whether the LL is a relative.
This means there must be a possibility that such an application may be denied because of relative status.
A proposed AST arrangement with a relative is not fraud if the AST will be a valid AST.

by

11:45 AM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

Zeedlebum please don't consider whether I personally may be interesed in your reponse.
That is not the point.
Your commentary would always be viewed with interest.
Irrespective of whether I agree or disagree with you should not prevent you from giving a considered opinion.
You have the motivation to come onto the forum from a field of expertise which is not norally present on the site.
Your contibutions are therefore extremely valuable.
The more professionals prepared to post the better for all of us.
Your position is such that you deal with things which impact uon the business lives of LL on a daily basis.
So it is extremely useful to have insight as to how things work, from the proverbial horses mouth.
so please don't be intimidated by me, sticks and stones and all that.
People have opinions that are generally contructed from supposed gleaning of knowledge from multiple sources.
You are a valuable source who no doubt could educate and inform those of us that are not in the exact same line of work as you; but are impacted by such work on a daily basis.
Therefore the more we know about how things are done in the LHAS the better we will be able to manage our businesses.
So keep on posting about things that interest you and comments on other posts.
It is always INTERESTING to hear from a professional

by Mark Alexander

12:49 PM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

@Paul Barrett

What is your definition of a British Citizen?
Somebody who has one or two British parents?
Do they need to have been born in the UK?
Did their parents or grandparents have to fight for GB in WW1 or WW2?
Do they have to have paid taxes and if so for how many years?
Do they have to be white?

I can see why Zeeblebum and others may consider you to be racist although I can also see that many will follow your logic. I think you will have to accept though, we do live in a multi-cultural society. My fiancee is Russian born but has a British passport, works and pay her taxes. If anything happened to me and she needed support (highly unlikely I know but run with me on this) why would a 16 year only girl who ticked everything on this above list deserve (except for the fact the she and two generations before her having never worked) be entitled to support over my fiancee.

Please think about that one carefully, otherwise you will very easily shoot down your own argument or prove absolutely the point that Zeeblebum is making in terms of "mild racism).

by

19:33 PM, 21st August 2012, About 9 years ago

Thanks for the interest so far. Here is an update following my meeting with HB Landlord liason Officer, Homelessness Officer and Council Solicitor. I think they are unsure of their current policy and seeking to muddy the waters as much as possible.

1. They seem to be agreeing that the policy of insisting on court action is wrong and say that they don't follow this policy. Very reluctant to put this in writing though and they don't think they need to because they have told me verbally. Their website doesnt indicate that you can be homeless without a court order as this is a complex legal issue and down to specifics. It says that you are homeless if you have recieved a court order and various other criteria but makes no mention of s21 notices. They can't offer specific legal advice on website. However they are happy to remind everyone at every opportunity to exercise your legal rights and stay there for 2 months until Bailiffs arrive.

2. They accept that my tenant was given incorrect advice about staying till court order / eviction to get better housing help. This was either a. her fault because she was given correct advice but she misunderstood it, or b. a one off error made by Stonham - an organistation they refer all their homeless people to. When I told them I had lots of previous tenants recieving the same advice they concede that Stonham may not be aware of the councils policy on this. But they have no control over what outside organisations advise.

3. They were not able to correct my tenants misunderstanding of her advice in writing as I requested because if I saw the letter it would contravene data protection laws. That's why they waited 8 days to correct the advice and only spoke to her yesterday saying they will help her and that the previous advice was wrong. I asked if they would write to tenant cc me with her specific advice, if tenant authorises it. They may do. Speaking to my tenant today it does appear that from yesterday things have turned around and they are assisting my tenant and they now have a budget and a duty of care to re-home her without a court order! They are even helping her by providing her with a deposit bond and rent in advance if she moves to another authority.

4. They say I should contact Stonham and voice my concerns. I said if the man sits in the council building and has a desk and gives out legal advice and takes referrals from the homeless officer you can see how people think they are the council / know what they're talking about / know about council policy. I told them they do have full control over Stonham and should stop referring people there if they are giving out wrong advice. If you know you are using cowboys just stop using them. Or do the job yourself like you are meant to. She will write to Stonham re their policy on s21s but will not cc me as she has told me verbally what their policy is.

5. They don't think it is that bad for future home finding if you have a court order. They accept they need to work with Private Landlords and don't understand why we would be concerned about previous court orders / evictions - it is part and parcel of being a landlord. They think my poll of 80% of Fools declining tenants with previous court orders is grossly exagerated and also see National Landlords Associations assesment of them being high risk as being over the top.

6. They accept that both nationally and in their district there is a misconception that this policy operates. It is nothing to do with them and outside their control what people think. I asked them to clarify it on their website and in their letters but they can't as individual cases are complex and private. They are happy to verbally say that a court order does not give you preferential treatment but do not want to or need to put this in writing.

Their solicitor reluctantly agreed to put 'something' in writing to me about the meeting so I will wait and see what I get.

by Mark Alexander

1:10 AM, 22nd August 2012, About 9 years ago

Anybody up for a sweepstake on number of words in the Council Solicitors letter, my guess is 100 tops.

by Adam Zeeblebum

22:38 PM, 22nd August 2012, About 9 years ago

I'm not sure, but I think you missed the main thrust of what I said.

A tenant is eligible to receive Housing Benefit even if the landlord is a close relative.

Irrespective of whether or not the parties are close relatives, there will be agreements between people that are:

- not legally enforceable commercial arrangements; and/or
- set up to take advantage of the housing benefit system.

It would be a local authority's contention that those things are more likely when the parties are close relatives. Hence the question on the claim form and the likelihood that the local authority will carry out a more in-depth investigation than usual. If the landlord and/or tenant feels that a claim for housing benefit has been unjustly declined, they can ask for the decision to be looked at again.

> "This means there must be a possibility that such an application may be denied because of relative status."

The claim wouldn't be denied because of the close relationship. The question is there as a prompt for the local authority to investigate and authenticate the claim more rigourously. The claim may then be denied if the local authority feels that the arrangement is not commercial and legally enforceable, and/or that it has been set up to take advantage of the housing benefit system.

And just to repeat - and I hope that @224415602f8b774cbaa08329fb866f31:disqus has had time to read these posts - a tenant whose landlord is a close relative can still claim and receive housing benefit. [However, this does not apply if the tenant and the landlord live in the same property.]

by Adam Zeeblebum

22:43 PM, 22nd August 2012, About 9 years ago

@google-3d57feb605f87d343e02691c617fdbd4:disqus

This is an important point - I didn't say that you were 'a racist'. I said that I thought your comments were racist. I still think that, and your subsequent post (including the later lengthy edit to that post) is equally full of racist comments.

But I am not saying that you are 'a racist'.

I find racist comments offensive, and I'm deeply uncomfortable with engaging in any discussion that has racism as a subtext. However, I would engage in that discussion if I felt that there was any prospect of the person making those comments reflecting on his/her comments and recognising them for what they are. But in this instance, I don't feel that that is a possibility.

So I'll happily discuss things with you in the other 'sub-threads' to which we have both contributed, but I'd like to draw a line under this one. And I'd be grateful if in those other 'sub-threads' you refrained from relating your comments and opinions to people's nationality and/or ethnicity.

by Adam Zeeblebum

23:40 PM, 22nd August 2012, About 9 years ago

@google-3d57feb605f87d343e02691c617fdbd4:disqus

There are so many inaccuracies, misunderstandings and unfounded statements in your post - I'll try to address them all below.

> "You are incredibly naive if you think tenants won't work the system to obtain council accommodation."

I don't think that, and I'm not sure how you manage to conclude that from my post. But it's interesting that you think that there are tenants who try to work the system. I agree with you - there certainly are. There are also private landlords (PLs) who try to work the system. Local authority homelessness services (LAHSs) try to work the system as well. None of this is acceptable. But perhaps it serves as a partial explanation of why the decisions that LAHSs have to make are so difficult and complicated, take a lot of time and investigation, and can be such a fine balancing act that inevitably it is not possible for every vested interest to be happy with the outcomes of those decisions.

> "The council are obliged to house them despite what you think."

No, the Council would not necessarily be obliged to house them. And that's not just what I think, it's what I know. There is a series of tests that the LAHS must consider when investigating a homelessness application. It is the outcome of these tests that determines the level of duty that the local authority has to the applicant.

> "To my knowledge the fact that 2 months of LHA has not been passed on to the LL will not give rise to a tenant being denied homelessness status" and "Even though it is the non-payment of rent for 2 months to the LL has caused the Section 21 and ultimate eviction. homelessness status will be allowed."

Your knowledge is wrong. There is no definitive answer to this. It may affect the decision that is made on a homelessness application and it may not. It would be part of the overall picture of an applicant's circumstances. One thing that is certain, however, is that it would be considered and investigated. The best impact that it could have on the application is a neutral one - it's never going to be a positive thing - and it may well diminish the duty that the local authority has to the applicant, so that they are then not owed a 'main housing duty' but instead a lesser duty.

> "The council consider that LHA that has been paid to the tenant means rent has been paid."

No. Absolutely not. That would be ridiculous.

> "If you suggest that the 2 months of LHA not passed onto the LL would cause denial of homelessness status then savvy tenants will pay the LL just before being evicted."

That wouldn't make a difference to the decision that was made on their homelessness application. It might make a difference to their chances of being rehoused, as they would no longer have those rent arrears. But they key things for the LAHS to consider in this instance would be the reason why the applicant is homeless, and the extent to which the applicant contributed to that reason.

> "Thes people are far better off once they are in subsidised council accommodation."

It's a myth that social housing is subsidised. Would you like to explain why you think it is?

> "They know exactly how it works and manipulate it accordingly."

I'd love to meet those people who know exactly how the systems of homelessness and allocations work. I haven't seen any evidence of that (and that includes not only applicants/tenants but also many people who work in housing and homelessness - it is, after all, horrendously complicated). Applicants/tenants might know isolated bits and pieces but rarely do they have a grasp of the bigger picture or how everything fits together.

> "I appreciate a council may not have say a 2 bed flat in Hackney and they will offer a flat in say Milton Keynes."

I suggest that it would be unusual for a London Borough to own properties in Milton Keynes.

> "They are therefore no longer exposed to the PRS."

It's interesting that, as a private landlord, you used the word 'exposed', as if you think that the private rented sector is in some way inferior.

> "Once you are in council accommodation you will be in receipt of free income support, free council tax, free NHS treatment, free NHS prescriptions, free care home, free pension, free housing benefit, free education, free schooling."

I must read up on my Social Security regulations. I didn't realise that one criterion that would make someone eligible for Income Support is if they live in social housing. There was me thinking it was a means-tested benefit. And not only do I get a house to live in, I also get a free spot in a care home at the same time. And look at the other benefits, like free NHS treatment and free education. And I've been paying for all my NHS treatment and education all this time, when I could have got it for free if only I'd been living in social housing.

> "You can live in an expensive area as a family up to the value of £26000."

What does that mean? £26000 is presumably a figure you've seized upon due it being one of the 'benefit cap' numbers. But how is it relevant here?

> "We all saw the dole scams that were on dispatches."

Despite the sensational framing of the programme, that episode of Dispatches wasn't about benefits claimants. It was about the failures and inefficiencies of Jobcentre Plus.


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