Piggybank News

September 20, 2017

MK Council paying tenants to “sit tight” till the Bailiffs come

Filed under: Property — nspresources @ 5:16 pm

OK OK; apologies for the dramatic Daily- Mail-esque headline but I wanted to draw your attention to a policy which has potentially negative consequences for MK Landlords.

It has long been rumoured  amongst landlords that MK Council will tell any tenant facing eviction to ignore the Section 21 notice.  Instead they are advised to stay in the property until the matter has gone to court and the possession order expires.  Historically MK Council Housing Options Officers and the Homelessness team have always denied vociferously that such a policy exists; arguing that they would regard a Section 21 as final notice and start working with the tenant to find alternative accommodation as soon as the notice is served.

This is no longer the case.  The Housing Team are now working to stringent new guidelines and have been quite open as to how this is being applied.  In common with many parts of the country Milton Keynes is in the grip of a housing crisis; only senior managers can approve temporary housing for homeless families and for the most part B&B accommodation out of the area is the only thing on offer.  This is both hugely disruptive for the family and incredibly expensive for the council.  It is perhaps not surprising that, faced with a problem of this magnitude, council housing officers have sought to find alternative options.

Unfortunately, from a landlords perspective, one of the solutions they have come up with is to extend the time tenants remain in their current accommodation by forcing them to stay put until the Bailiffs come to throw them out.  Tenants facing eviction are now being told that if they move out voluntarily in response to either the Section 21 notice or a Court Possession order they will be regarded as intentionally homeless and the council will not have a duty to re house them.  They are told to wait for the “proper” notice from the Bailiffs. However, as this advice forces tenants into unnecessary debt (with court fees being awarded against them), the council have set up a fund to pay the court fees for those tenants who can prove they are financially unable to do so themselves. Possibly I am cynical but I have to assume that this would apply to most families who found themselves in this unfortunate situation.

So the “wealth” warning here is to budget for a long and drawn out process if you are faced with needing to evict any tenant who may then be reliant on MK Council for re-housing. The glass half full view would suggest that, as the council will pay the court fees, landlords have some prospect of recovering part of their costs. (legal fees etc are not covered)  However, it should be noted that no suggestion has been made that the council would pay this direct to the landlord on behalf of the debtor and tenants do have to apply for the payment, it is not automatic.

For the tenants concerned this policy has some serious implications as well.  Even if they are able to get the court fees paid for them, they are likely to be faced with other debts related to the legal process and, if this debt is formally recorded against them in the form of a CCJ, it will affect all their financial matters for some time to come.  Quite apart from this, forcing the tenants to wait to be evicted by Bailiffs adds hugely to the stress and embarrassment of what is already a difficult situation.

Whilst I can understand the motivation (desperation?) behind this policy it seems likely to further increase the number of private landlords who will refuse to consider housing tenants on benefits. Faced with the prospect of a long fight to regain control of a property, potentially having arrears or damages increase over an extended period and the additional costs of court and Bailiff action: the business case for members of the PRS to agree to plug the gap in social housing is looking increasingly thin. Until the council and government decide to work with landlords in a positive way and take their position into account when making policy decisions like this I find it hard to see how the current housing crisis can be expected to improve.

 

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