05 Oct 2020

In a groundbreaking decision, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has declared that a council should not have waited until the eviction date to rehouse a mother but should have rehoused her when she first informed it that she was being made homeless.

On 25th June 2020 The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that a local authority did not do enough to prevent a single mother and her family from becoming homeless.

A mother of six children, some of whom are disabled, had been living in privately rented accommodation when she was asked to leave.

As is all to often the case when a tenant is given notice, when she approached the London Borough of Haringey for housing assistance, instead of helping the mother to find appropriate accommodation before she was evicted, the London Borough of Haringey told her to remain at the property until the eviction date.

This was despite a senior housing manager with London Borough of Haringey telling colleagues that this was not legally appropriate. So the council obviously knew it was acting outside the law. As most of them too in this regard.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that the London Borough of Haringey should have helped the mother when she first informed it that she was being made homeless, rather than waiting until the eviction date. 

The delay had caused distress and upheaval to the family, with the family having to move between hotels. The family received compensation of £1,500 from the London Borough of Haringey.

Phil Turtle, a director of Landlord Licensing & Defence commented, “of course the plight of the poor landlord who like so many when faced with what had now been shown to be illegal action in advising tenants to stay until the bailiffs arrive, has been ignored. Often this process used to take 6-12 months usually with no rent and property damage. In the current climate of Covid-19 regulations, it is more like to be 18 months or more.”

“However, now the The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has made this finding, we must hope that it will set a precedent that Councils and organisations like Shelter are giving illegal advise when telling tenants they will not be rehoused until the bailiffs arrive. Of course whereas the tenant received compensation, albeit it miserably small, there was no compensation for the landlord.”

Landlords who find that a council or organisation like Shelter has advised tenants to stay put until the bailiffs arrive should remind the council that they are breaking the law and refer them to the “Investigation into a complaint against London Borough of Haringey (reference number: 19 014 008)” where it was judged that then must rehouse immediately.

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