Shelter: single mothers, bullying and how to delay eviction

Shelter: single mothers, bullying and how to delay eviction

9:45 AM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago 30

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Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, was on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on Wednesday. The subject was homeless single mothers. These people are of great importance to  Shelter because it hopes to use them to get a court ruling that discrimination against claimants of housing benefit is unlawful, based on the following argument: a ban on HB claimants (both male and female) is indirect sex discrimination against women because there are more of them. I know, you couldn’t make it up!

Shelter helped to sue a single-branch agency for indirect sex discrimination, but settled out of court. This shows they had little confidence in the strength of its case, but it managed to bully the agency into paying an HB claimant £2,000 in compensation for some unexplained and hard to imagine loss or suffering. You can see how weak the case was click here.

As part of a press release in August on its mystery shopper exercise, Shelter stated that “No DSS policies could amount to indirect discrimination because women, especially single mothers, and people with disabilities, are more likely to rely on housing benefit to top up their rent.”

In the press release, Polly Neate wrote “Rejecting all housing benefit tenants is morally bankrupt” click here.

The same day Shelter’s well-fed Director of Communications, Policy & Campaigns, Greg Beales, said on TV “Our intent over the next few months is to bring a series of test cases to ask the courts to look at this closely ……to ask them to say it’s unlawful.” click here

Polly’s explanation on Wednesday’s programme for why there are so many homeless single mothers was that they tended to be poor, and that we are not building enough social housing.

Some people may think that the very existence of many single mothers is due to the fact that councils must provide accommodation for them. Pregnancy used to be the key to getting a council flat. The reason why so many of them are now in temporary accommodation (which means that they are officially described as homeless) is because there isn’t enough social housing for them.

Two single mothers appeared on the programme, about 38.5 minutes in: click here

One, a young woman with a child on her knee, complained about her temporary accommodation. She said she had left college this year to start university.

The BBC website said the mother is 21-year-old student teacher and her daughter is two: click here

Nobody asked why she thought it a good idea as a student to get pregnant and have a child without support from the father. Of course not, in these modern times no-one is expected to take responsibility.  Society will look after them.  The State will provide.

The other single mother was middle-aged, and had lived in a house for 13 years. She described how her landlord gave her a Section 21 notice in November 2016 because he wanted to sell. (She didn’t say whether it was because of Section 24).  She said she followed the council’s instruction to ignore the notice – and the court order – and wait for the bailiffs, and was then left with the bailiffs‘ bill and the court’s bill.

On its website Shelter gives the same advice that her council did:  ”Only court bailiffs can evict you from your home.” it says. click here

That page provides a video of the story of Lyndsay, a benefits claimant.  She had lived in a house with her two children for four years, and her landlady had informed her a few months before the S 21 that she intended to sell, and confirmed it two weeks before issuing the notice. (She didn’t say whether it was because of Section 24.)

A housing officer at the council spotted a problem with her section 21 notice, making it invalid. “Lyndsay’s landlord had to send a second section 21 notice, which gave her another two months in her home.”

Lyndsay stayed past the expiry date on the second section 21 notice, meaning her landlady had to start court action. The court sent her a possession order four months later.

She was given six weeks to leave her home – an extension of the usual two weeks that’s sometimes given. However, she was ordered to pay £400 in court costs, because there was no legal reason to stop her eviction.”

There was “no legal reason to stop her eviction”, but the owner’s desire to dispose of the property was frustrated for seven and a half months.

Shelter’s web page states “The court can decide to:

  • dismiss the case if the section 21 notice isn’t valid
  • order you to leave if the notice is valid”

So anyone who has checked with Shelter that the section 21 notice is valid is just wasting the time of the court and the landlord by not leaving when the notice expires, because the result is a foregone conclusion. Worse still, ignoring the possession order from the court wastes more of the landlord’s time and money. If the tenant does not pay rent during this period of limbo, the landlord is at risk of having the property re-possessed by the lender.

That is really what is morally bankrupt, Polly, to use your words. So is your campaign to harass the agency Ludlow Thompson by inciting your supporters to make nuisance calls.

“Thousands of Shelter supports have contacted Ludlow Thompson’s head office to demand that it stamps out discrimination against renters on housing benefit.

“Ludlow hasn’t responded to a single message. Now we’re ramping up the pressure.

“We need you to call Ludlow Thompson directly and help us force the issue.

“If enough of us ring and flood the phone lines, Ludlow Thompson won’t be able to ignore us.” click here

Click here to down load Property Industry Eye pdf of the Shelter instructions.

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Ian Narbeth

11:39 AM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

It would be interesting to run a test case against a Council or Shelter in circumstances where there is a court order requiring a tenant to give up possession but they are advised/encouraged to ignore it until the bailiffs turn up.
A court order is law, just like a statute and public bodies and registered charities should not be encouraging breach of the law.
Imagine the outcry if a landlords' organisation advised landlords to breach the law.
Does anyone on Property118 have a suitable test case where their tenant was advised to ignore a court order?

Furthermore if a pattern of such advice to numerous tenants can be shown, it might be possible to seek an injunction against Shelter/a Council to stop them giving such advice, breach of which would be contempt of court. Does Mark Smith have a view on this?

terry sullivan

12:05 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 12/10/2018 - 11:39
that is my view and perhaps a letter to charity commissioners pointing out that shelter are breaking the law?

i believe housing ombudsman has stated in past that councils should accept homelessness when court order says so

Alison King

12:12 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

I agree that single mothers are unfairly discriminated against and I think the rhetoric that they get pregnant deliberately to get houses is ludicrous. Mothers want the best for their children and children need good homes in which to thrive and grow up to be successful citizens. I can't abide it when people are lumped into categories and demonised as a group whether it's immigrants, muslims, landlords, bankers or single mothers. I've had three single mums and they were all great tenants and my current worst tenant is a working male with no family.
People should be treated as individuals and of course it's up to each landlord to assess risk; based on the individual they get to know in an interview. Not a tick box on a mortgage form.

Appalled Landlord

12:42 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alison King at 12/10/2018 - 12:12
Gordon Brown didn’t think it ludicrous when he was PM. “Teenage single mothers will be sent to live in supervised homes rather than given council houses, Mr Brown announced.”

“Britain now provides children who have children with an array of benefits, from cash to council flats.”

“The best thing for her would be to have a baby, and I told her this. I’m so pleased she’s now pregnant because it means she’ll get a house and more benefits.

Ian Narbeth

13:03 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alison King at 12/10/2018 - 12:12
Alison, private landlords discriminate (but not unfairly) against people with low or no income. Prudent landlords carry out reference checks - indeed some Councils are asking landlords to confirm they are doing checks. The landlord's lender may require rent insurance. If a landlord has rent insurance he will not be covered if he accepts a tenant who has failed a check. Couple this with the fact that the Government proposes to ban upfront fees (so the landlord has to pay for referencing himself) and there you are. A landlord faced with a prospective tenant receiving benefits knows the tenant will fail referencing. What is the point of wasting his or his agent's time arranging a viewing, showing the tenant round, receiving an offer to take the property, taking the property off the market whilst taking up references, paying for the referencing, reading the negative report and then having to tell the tenant "Sorry you can't have it"?

Add to that the fact that it can takes 6 to 9 months to get a tenant out and that (a) a DSS tenant is unlikely to be worth suing and (b) the benefit payer will not pay arrears once the tenant is evicted.

I am pleased you have had good experiences with single mums but plenty of landlords have not. Could you take a £10,000 hit if you were unlucky enough to have a tenant who failed to pay?

It is perfectly rational for landlords to have a simple rule of rejecting DSS claimants.

Alison King

13:14 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Appalled Landlord at 12/10/2018 - 12:42
If I allowed myself to be influenced by random opinion pieces in the press I would not be a landlord at all. Especially the likes of the Express and Mail. Although the Times is not much better.
Their purpose is to sensationalise in order to sell their products. Their value in informing intelligent conversation is negligible.


13:23 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

I have had two single mothers bad experience, that is 2 out of 2, if the discrimination law comes into "No DSS" policy then I am afraid I will have to put my rent up by 50% for DSS tenants to cover the additional cost of running a DSS tenancy and the risk for non-payments and prolonged eviction process where I lost months and months of rental income.
They claim to be single mothers, yet they are secretly in relationship, after moving in a few months later you will notice men's clothes on the washing line, men's toiletries in the bathroom, shavers, and so on, so who is kidding who? the usual excuse is the child's father has the right to see his child that is why he is here.

Alison King

13:27 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 12/10/2018 - 13:03Yes of course. A landlord may choose to make those judgements based on whatever criteria they choose. Personally I would prefer that to not be constrained by building societies sticking their two pennyworth in as well. But that does not make it always just or fair and people who feel unfairly treated have every right to protest and indeed absolutely should protest.
I contend that by interviewing the individual you can find out a lot more about their honesty, how conscientious they are, and whether or not they are upwardly mobile. A person on DSS who has just divorced out of an abusive marriage and is determined to provide a decent future for her children, or a single parent nurse who has dropped down to part time hours until her children start primary school are both totally different prospects to a delinquent oaf of either sex.

Hamish McBloggs

13:51 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alison King at 12/10/2018 - 12:12
Albeit a few years ago, our very first tenant was a single mother.

Excellent tenant.

But when the number of children was to increase she asked us to evict her as the house would become inappropriate. If she left of her own volition she would be making herself intentionally homeless and would receive no support from the LA; including potentially losing her then current benefits.

The LA advised her that until she was on the streets with her children and suitcases she should sit tight.

My writing to and then intervention by the MP finally brought the farce to an end and we avoided the bailiff stage.


John Frith

14:17 PM, 12th October 2018, About 5 years ago

Can anyone tell me (from talking to tenants) what is so attractive about council accommodation that leads a tenant to choose to be evicted rather than find alternative PRS accommodation?

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