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Are Local Authorities Telling Evicted Tenants To Sit Tight?

Homeless

Prior to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 Local Authorities (LAs) would routinely say that a tenant who left a property before the bailiff arrived had made themselves homeless and thus they would be relieved of their statutory duty to assist. That should no longer happen and the LA should step in as soon as the Section 21 is served, but does it happen?

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 

One of the objectives of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 was to force Local Authorities (LAs) to assist tenants in receipt of a Section 21 or Section 8 before they were actually evicted and made homeless. It gave the LA a duty to help the tenant to stay in their current accommodation or help them to find a new place to live before they become actually homeless. 

To simply tell a tenant to go away and come back when the bailiff appeared would be a failure to comply with their statutory duty. 

However they also have a duty to advise threatened tenants of the law. This would include telling them that the landlord cannot throw them out onto the streets. The landlord needs to obtain a repossession order and then arrange a bailiff. This takes time and costs the landlord dearly. The LA should also advise the tenant that they should start looking for a new place to live.  

Is There An Issue?

As reported in The Telegraph this month, "Landlords are battling tenants who are refusing to leave properties because there is such an extreme shortage of rental homes that they cannot find anywhere else to live.

The shortage of rental properties in Britain has become so severe that an increasing number of tenants are ignoring eviction notices and staying put until they are forcibly removed, letting agents have warned."

Added to this, a LA housing officer who already has a long waiting list for social housing is hardly going to take a tenant who has a roof over their head at that point in time and put them in expensive emergency accommodation. The tenant knows that if they sit it out they will eventually be rehoused.

The LA is hopefully not telling the tenant to sit it out but sadly, the latter often comes away thinking they have no choice. If they find themselves PRS accommodation the LA support ends. By sitting it out there is a chance of them being allocated cheaper Social Housing.


The Law

From Homelessness LA code of guidance.pdf. March 2022

•The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 significantly reformed England's homelessness legislation by placing duties on local authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness in their areas. It also requires housing authorities to provide homelessness services to all those affected, not just those who have 'priority need.' These include:

•an enhanced prevention duty extending the period a household is threatened with homelessness from 28 days to 56 days, meaning that housing authorities are required to work with people to prevent homelessness at an earlier stage …..

The housing authority has a duty to provide advice and information about homelessness and the prevention of homelessness and the rights of homeless people or those at risk of homelessness, as well as the help that is available from the housing authority or others and how to access that help.

•Broadly speaking, a person is threatened with homelessness if they are likely to become homeless within 56 days. An applicant who has been served with valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 to end their assured shorthold tenancy is also threatened with homelessness, if the notice has expired or will expire within 56 days and is served in respect of the only accommodation that is available for them to occupy.

Prevention duty

13 Housing authorities have a duty to take reasonable steps to help prevent any eligible person (regardless of priority need status, intentionality and whether they have a local connection) who is threatened with homelessness from becoming homeless. This means either helping them to stay in their current accommodation or helping them to find a new place to live before they become actually homeless. The prevention duty continues for 56 days unless it is brought to an end by an event such as accommodation being secured for the person, or by their becoming homeless. 


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