New Law Proposed to Stop Councils Forcing Tenants to Wait for Bailiffs


The proportion of all repossession claims that have to be resolved by bailiffs in the last 12 months has shot up to 40%, compared to just 25% in the same period 5 years ago according to recent Government stats.

Possession claims will only progress to bailiffs after a tenant has received an eviction notice and failed to vacate a property by the date specified.

Recently, local councils have come under fire (from us) for turning away tenants’ housing applications unless an order for possession has first been granted by a court. Instead, local councils have advised tenants who have been served eviction notices to stay in their properties until the bailiffs knock on their door.

Results from the NLA’s quarterly Tenant Panel show that half (49%) of tenants who have been served a section 21 eviction notice reported that they had been told to ignore it by their local council or advice agency such as Shelter or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) in favour of waiting for a court order to vacate the property.

In March, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis wrote to all local councils in England to address the issue and to clarify the homelessness guidance that should be issued, following NLA pressure.

Unfortunately, councils have ignored him and we continue to have members get in touch with us because their local authority is advising tenants to wait it out until the bailiffs appear.

The NLA has consistently warned that putting vulnerable households in this position is detrimental to both landlords and tenants alike. Tenants often accrue further rent arrears and other associated costs that make them more susceptible to homelessness, while landlords could fall behind on mortgage payments as they are dragged through a lengthy and costly court process.

As a result, landlords are becoming more reluctant to let out their property to vulnerable households (such as homeless ones) as their confidence in their ability to regain possession without substantial financial damage is diminished.

Despite previous assurances that the Government would consider a legislative solution to this problem, the recent Queen’s Speech showed us that it was not on their agenda for the next year.


A little Bill goes a long way

Due to lack of Governmental action, we felt it best to take matters into our own hands.

Last week was the ballot for Private Members Bills, giving 20 lucky MPs a shot at having a piece of legislation being brought to the floor of the Commons.

While Parliament is in recess this week those lucky few MPs have no doubt been inundated with requests from trade associations, charities and pressure groups while they make up their mind on which Bill to submit.

We’ve put together a short, sharp Bill that would solve this repossession problem once and for all. Simply, it will amend Section 175 of the Housing Act 1996 to:

  • Double the definition of threatened with homelessness from 28 to 56 days, and
  • Force local authorities to accept a valid Section 21 notice as evidence that an applicant is threatened with homelessness.

These two minor changes taken together would ensure that councils will have to step in almost as soon as an eviction notice is given, providing the tenant with sufficient support and saving the landlord from a costly, lengthy and wholly unnecessary dragged out court process.

We have presented this Bill to MPs we think may be interested, but even if we are unsuccessful on this occasion we shall be pressing on this issue until it’s resolved.


NLA Property Repossession

If you are looking to legally evict your tenant(s) and get your property back as quickly and as simply as possible, then contact our NLA Property Repossession team, who can help alleviate the pressure on you, and avoid elevated costs. Find out more here.

8 thoughts on “New Law Proposed to Stop Councils Forcing Tenants to Wait for Bailiffs

  1. Not to mention the court time this would free up on an already overloaded system

  2. As an alternative, how about supporting a test case where a landlord takes the tenant AND the council to small claims court to recover their losses ? Surely you can find some legal precedent to make the councils jointly liable for losses occurring due to their actions (especially since they have specifically been told by central government that they must not do it) ?

    1. That would be the the ideal test case, and I ‘m sure lots of landlords would pay to support it, I would. I’ve been through it and it cost me a fortune.
      What justification would the council have “Oh well we advised the tenant to stay to the bitter end cos that’s what we’ve always done” sic
      “Those landlords are making loads of money and who cares if one of our clients gets three months free rent”sic

      I also suspect after a possession order is issued no further housing benefit is paid. So the direct payment to landlord capability is also lost

  3. I am in the process of applying to the court to evict tenants under s21as the council has told them to wait for bailiffs. As this is going to cost me about £500 I have asked the judge to award cost to me from the council as tenants are on HB and unemployed. I don’t think this will happen so just extra cost to me and delay. I will not take HB tenants again for this reason.

  4. I had to take my first ever tenant to court not long ago. I learned a lot in the process. Something that was really helpful was that my tenant was very inconsiderate and was disturbing the other tenants and destroying the property. So when I went to the court hearing and my tenant from hell didn’t show up, which seem to have counted towards me, we asked for the case to be transferred to the high court because you can use the high court, private bailiff and asked instead of 14 days to make it to 7 days. The judge agreed and when the 7 days expired, I contacted the Burlington Group and the had a writ without 48 hours. The tenant thought he had at least 2 weeks before the order had to go to the county court and then they would have taken forever to appoint the bailiffs. Imagine my delight when the tenant from hell got caught off guard and the bailiffs showed up 9 days after the court hearing and he was made homeless. Also the council had told him to wait until the bailiffs!!!! Well he didn’t have time as I got smart and he was chucked out. So next time, try this route if possible.

  5. I am in a situation where the council has told my tenant to stay until eviction. I have looked at all ways as above to sue the council it appears the council are able to wriggle out, however I will continue researching to sue the council. The action of the council has turned my life up side down I am researching could I sue the council because they have breached my Human Rights ?

  6. Councils advising tenants to stay to the bitter end is immoral as well as poor advice. The question I would like to put to a judge it is deliberate mis-appropriation of public funds. As the council’s will not pay a landlord direct until the tenant is at least 8 weeks in areas. Therefore they are complicit in the fraud, whereby the tenant steals the rent money with no intention of forwarding it to the landlord. In my experience if the tenant does a runner the council is still liable for the 8 weeks rent but they try and wriggle out of it, claiming that my beef is with the tenant , although they know what has happened. I would be very happy for my subscription be put towards a test case where a council was sued not only for lost rent, but also court costs lost time and damages. They are clearly trying it on and need to feel some pain.
    Unfortunately I do not entertain people on housing benefit as they are normally struggling and can very easily turn bad. Too risky and stressful.

Leave a Reply