Local authorities must stop routinely advising tenants to stay put until the bailiff arrives before they can be accepted as homeless.
Housing minister Brandon Lewis has written to all chief executives of local councils saying that households should not be put in this position, and clarifying the guidance about homelessness.
In his letter he says: “Authorities should not routinely be advising tenants to stay until the bailiffs arrive; there is no barrier to them assisting the tenant before this. By doing this, local authorities miss a valuable opportunity to prevent homelessness.”
The letter follows pressure from ARLA, whose managing director David Cox has repeatedly raised the issue of local authorities advising tenants to stay in their property beyond the notice period, compelling the landlord to go to court to gain possession, running up considerable costs.
In his letter, Lewis says: “Landlords and tenants continue to raise concerns about local authorities advising tenants to stay when issued with a Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy under Section 21 (1) or (4) of the Housing Act 1988.
“I receive a large amount of correspondence on this.”
He continues: “The statutory Homelessness Code of Guidance, which local authorities are required by law to have regard to, is clear on this matter.
“It contains guidance on how authorities should treat homelessness applications in circumstances where a tenant has received a valid S21 notice.
“It says that housing authorities should not, in every case, insist upon a court order for possession and that no local authority should adopt a blanket policy in this respect.
“The Guidance states that if the landlord intends to seek possession and there would be no defence to an application for a possession order, then it is unlikely that it would be reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the accommodation.
“Unless a local authority has very good reason to depart from the statutory guidance, then they should not be placing households in this position.”
Lewis says that he will specifically be looking at the way local authorities deal with S21 notices.
Cox said that he hoped that the letter would end what has been a “real problem” for the industry, but added that ARLA would continue to press the minister on the issue.