With all the discussion about housing benefit tenants and the problems they have finding accommodation, I thought it would be helpful for people to read about one real-life story.
One where a well-meaning landlord came unstuck. Some details have been changed to preserve anonymity.
Kate instructed me to bring proceedings for possession towards the end of April. Here is what she told me:
My tenant Jenny is a lovely person and so I hope this can all be done as amicably as possible. The reality is that she finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place. This is what happened :·
- The council told her in ’09 to get a 2 bed flat as she has a little boy and they agreed to cover the rent of £1,215 per calendar month
- The Government then reduced her benefits. Whilst she has been trying to make up the shortfall she has been struggling to do this (she has no other source of income)
- When she asked the council to re-house her into a cheaper property, they told her she needed to bid on flats
- She has told me that she has been bidding on flats for over a year but every time she bids on anything, she loses out to others who are in bedsits or 1 bed flats
- She mentioned this again to the council and asked if they could help her and get her “up the list”, they said they can’t do anything
- She has also been told that she can’t just move out and give me back the keys otherwise they won’t re-house her
She has come to me as her last resort and asked me to evict her so that she can be re-housed. She wants to get a job but can’t do anything until she’s out of the flat as even if she got a job, the rent is too much for her on her own.
Kate used my All in One eviction service which cost her £840. (Note that this is no longer available – read about our current eviction service here).
How long it took to get the possession order
Kate had already served a section 21 notice so we were able to issue proceedings immediately. The forms were therefore drafted up, signed, and sent off to the court a few days later on 30 April. The proceedings were issued by the court on 18 May and served on the tenant.
I duly applied for possession at the proper time and the court made the order for possession on 12 June. The order gave the tenant until 26 June to vacate.
So the time from issue to the tenant being ordered to vacate was six weeks, or eight weeks to the date she was ordered to vacate. Which is fairly normal for the ‘accelerated procedure’.
How long it took to get possession
As is usual, the tenant was told by the Council to stay put and so we had to apply for a bailiffs appointment. Which I duly sent off to the court on 27 June. Being a London court however there was then a six-week delay, and the bailiffs’ appointment was finally made for 9 August.
So looking at the procedure as a whole, it has taken about three and a half months from first deciding to instruct solicitors to actually getting the property back.
Reflections on the case – what Kate learned
Talking afterwards to Kate, she told me that as a result of this experience she definitely won’t be letting to housing benefit tenants again. This is what she told me she had learned from the experience:
In hindsight, I was very naïve and just wanted to help her out. I should have walked away as soon as she mentioned she was on benefits and it never occurred to me to ask her housing benefits officer any of the following questions:
- If their benefits get cut, who pays the shortfall? I now know that’s ME
- What if I decide to sell the flat?
- Can I give notice? I now know the tenant would just stay until I evict them
- What if I decide to put the rent up? I now know that this wouldn’t have been possible either !!!
Had I asked any of those questions, I think I would have realised that I was going down a one way street…..
It may also be worth mentioning that as well as the rent arrears the flat was left in a poor condition and so Kate also had to pay for refurbishment before the flat could be re-let.
So there you are. A real-life example of someone who was willing to give a housing benefit tenant a chance, got caught out and will now never knowingly rent to benefit tenants again.
Sad but true.
Thanks to ‘Kate’ for allowing me to use her story.
Landlords wanting to evict their tenants may want to check out my DIY eviction service >> here.