Council ‘advised private tenant to return to former property’

A local authority advised a former renter who ran up arrears to go back to the property, where she had been given notice to quit and had duly left.

The tenant is alleged to have broken her way back in to the property after the agent retrieved the key, and then changed the locks.

Eviction firm Landlord Action has now been instructed.

The landlord, Lewis Selt, from Hertfordshire, had started letting the two-bedroom property last year to the single mother in receipt of housing benefit.

He had instructed a local letting agent – which has asked not to be named – in Romford, Essex, to manage the property.

The tenant and the rent guarantor passed all referencing checks by the agency but after four to five months, payments became irregular and eventually stopped, with £2,000 of rent arrears accrued.

Selt served the tenant notice. The tenant surrendered the property and left with her belongings on the agreed date. The agent retrieved the keys from the property on the same day while carrying out his check-out report.

However, the next day the tenant along with her guarantor returned to the letting agent to ask if she could have the keys back and return to the property.

She informed them that Havering Council had said they would not rehouse her because she had voluntarily made herself homeless and that she should have remained in the property until she was evicted. When the agent refused, she claimed that the council had advised her that if the agent would not give the keys back, she should get a locksmith and break back into the property.

Robert Gordon, property manager at the agency, said: “I went to the property the next morning to ensure everything was OK but my keys no longer worked.

“I could see that furniture had been moved back into the property. In an attempt to resolve the matter, I drove straight to the local council but no one would speak to me or identify who had issued such ludicrous advice to a tenant who felt she had no choice but to break the law.”

Although he could take legal action against the tenant under a trespassing law, Selt has decided to serve a Section 21 notice and a Section 8 notice in a bid to get his property back and recover money owed as quickly as possible. It will now take approximately six to eight weeks for a judge to grant a possession order, and if the tenant still refuses to leave then bailiffs will be called.

Selt said: “Not only am I not receiving rent on my property, I’m now faced with eviction costs and yet I’m powerless to do anything about it.

“The agent has done everything possible to protect my interests but landlords and agents are facing a losing battle if local authorities are going to issue such ridiculous advice.”

Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, said this was another example of councils forcing up costs for landlords by encouraging tenants to stay put when they can’t afford the rent.

He said: “Local authorities are forcing landlords to go to court to gain possession, running up considerable costs. Landlords are losing confidence in the system and turning away from communities which rely on their private housing to bridge the gap in the chronic shortage of social housing. This advice is exacerbating the problem and something needs to be done.”

A spokesperson for Havering Borough Council this morning said: “The client reached out to staff at the Public Advice and Service Centre (PASC), where she was informed she still had a number of months in the property, as the landlord would need to follow the legal eviction process.

“The client then told staff she had handed the keys back to the Estate Agent and had put her belongings in storage. After speaking with the agents, it became clear that she had not handed back her keys, but had left them inside the property.

“Council staff later advised her to return to the property as she still had the right of occupation. The agents were also reminded that as the case had not gone through the courts, the client had the legal right to remain in the property.

“Havering Council will always do its best to support vulnerable residents from becoming homeless, and we urge both private landlords and letting agents to act responsibly and follow the correct legal procedures.”


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  1. jeremy1960

    Are these the same local councils that gov rely upon to enforce legislation? Hold on to your hats guys and girls, gonna be a rough old ride when they have to cope with more regulations!

  2. eltell

    I trust PIE will not let Havering council off the hook and will report their response. It is too easy for faceless minions to encourage tenants to break the law without penalty. Perhaps the local MP should be made aware.

  3. Will

    ANOTHER ROGUE COUNCIL.  Not only are they inciting criminal activity, if the story is true, they are also putting the tenant at risk of criminal proceedings including criminal damage, breaking and entering, burglary and squatting. Personally I would have involved the police.  I am sure the council will deny ever giving this advice.

  4. seenitall

    Something not being reported here or told ?

    If the tenant had vacated and given up the property/surrendered then she is a trespasser which is now a criminal offence for a property and the police should be called to remove.

    Why would you re-issue the s21  /  s8   ?     –    perhaps a surrender is not viewed as effective in allowing the police to treat it as a tresspasser ?       and the legal advice is that even if a tenant surrenders a property they can go back in and re-occupy provided there is no court order for possession?

    If so thats a worring situation – what about past tenants who have vacated and then say 3 mths later or 3 years later want to occupy – can they just enter (if they kepts keys) and then you have to issue a s21/ s8   rather than call the police?

    1. Woodentop

      My thoughts to. You are implying by serving a section 21/8 notice that the tenancy hadn’t ended. The court cannot enforce a tenancy that has expired? Not is all that it would appear. If they had taken legal advice, police should have been called for trespass and evicted or arrested if they obstructed. Having said this, the police consider it a civil dispute and would often try and side step their responsibility. I think it was a couple of years ago that the police were taken to task over side stepping (possibly reported on EYE) and Chief Constables were told to stop the practice … it is criminal offence. The grey area of has the tenant abandoned the property, is now questionable. As all letting agents should know, the only real safe way is to obtain a possession order. Sec 8 is the route, not Sec 21 in my opinion but if they handed in the keys and removed all personal items and the agent can demonstrate that the property had been surrendered, willingly by the tenant, then the tenancy ended? I have no doubt that Shelter will be rubbing their hands with glee in getting involved in this one. The agent/landlord should seek proper legal advice.


      The habit of councils advising tenant not to make themselves voluntarily homeless should be treated as a criminal offence to defraud the landlord. This practice has been going on for years and the government told them to stop doing it some years ago for they could be found liable. My local council now refuse to give tenants advice … sends them to Shelter who within the law try every trick imaginable to stop a possession order. This raises the question, just like tax evasion, their conduct might not be illegal but the  principle of their behaviour?

  5. drakeco75

    send the boys raaaaanndddd

  6. EAPreston63

    Interesting one!, What about the Locksmith? what checks did he/she do to confirm tenant had the right to enter the property and change the locks? All too often the council and citizens advice are telling tenants to wait until they are evicted before sorting out housing for those tenants, Its the system that is fundamentally wrong along with a cronic shortage of suitable social housing for those who struggle to pay rent (or who chose not to). Where will it all end…..!

    1. I want to believe

      You would have thought in a country where we already have a cronic shortage of housing that more would be done to help landlords than kick them while they’re down.

      I think my next business venture will be to manufacture ‘affordable temporary self erecting plastic homes’ a portable family sized tent kinda thing.  I predict that there will be a mass market for them in the non too distant future. I wonder if I could get a subsidy from the EU to make them here in the UK and the government to allocate me some brown belt sites up and down the country to house the masses that private Landlords will no longer take.

      1. Woodentop

        Someone has beaten you to it, its called a refugee camp.


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