As a clear consequence of the lack of social housing, Brent Council, unable to offer any practical alternative accommodation, has paid the legal fees of a private landlord who was pursuing a Section 21 eviction notice.
The agreement involves the landlord continuing to provide the accommodation, with the council taking over responsibility for the payment of the rent.
The case has come to light because of the involvement of a prominent Northwest-London Lettings Agent, which handled the start of the process on behalf of their landlord client. The application for a Section 21 notice was subsequently handled by property-rental sector specialists LegalforLandlords.
Back in February of this year, LegalforLandlords made the application to Willesden County Court. In April, possession was granted. There is however a backlog in the enforcement process with bailiff appointments often taking many months to be confirmed. Some councils have been telling tenants to ‘sit tight’ until the bailiffs arrive, prolonging the misery for landlords. In this case, Brent Council, er, appears to have tried a different tactic.
In June, the Agent was informed that providing the Landlord was willing to halt proceedings, the council would pay the Landlord’s legal costs, cover the rent arrears and pay the rent going forwards. In this case the Landlord agreed.
With many smaller-scale landlords, fearing the changes in the Renters Reform Bill, now leaving the sector, this action by Brent Council might make them pause for thought. Is this a rare, isolated case of a council unable to prevent a homelessness case any other way? Or is it something that’s more widespread, a practical solution that could work for both private landlords and tenants alike?
Sim Sekhon, LegalforLandlords MD. was surprised by the council’s actions, but also intrigued. He said, ‘It’s worth remembering that the private Landlord in this situation agreed to the deal, but it could be that he or she had no real alternative? They were already out of pocket and facing a wait of many months for a bailiff. Suddenly there’s an offer made that seems to bring immediate relief and recompense. Is that a real choice?’
There is a shortage of social housing – that’s not news. The question is what will happen in the longer term? Will more landlords find themselves effectively forced to provide the housing councils cannot? Will the combination of a clogged court system and the bailiff backlog drive force private landlords to retain unsuitable tenants?