This paper considers how English local authorities deal with private tenants who have been served with a section 21 notice and are about to become homeless. It is not unusual for tenants in this position to be told to remain in situ until a court order/bailiff’s warrant is obtained. The paper considers changes introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 with effect from 3 April 2018.Jump to full report >>
Private renting is now the second largest form of tenure in England. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) publishes quarterly statistics on the number of applications for assistance received by local authorities in England from homeless households. In 2010/11 the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST) was given as a reason in 6,630 homeless applications (15% of the total), rising to 18,270 cases (31% of the total) in 2016/17. In London, 31% of homeless acceptances between October and December 2017 were due to the end of an assured shorthold tenancy.
When an English local authority is approached for assistance by a household that has been served with a notice of the landlord’s intention to seek possession under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, a common response has been to tell the applicant to remain in situ until a court order/bailiff’s warrant has been obtained. Authorities often told these households that an application for homelessness assistance under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (as amended) would not be considered before a court order/bailiff’s warrant was issued.
The then Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, wrote to all local authority CEOs concerning their approach to homeless applicants who were facing eviction due to a section 21 notice in June 2016. The letter said: “Unless a local authority has very good reason to depart from the statutory guidance then they should not be placing households in this position.”
Measures in the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which came into force on 3 April 2018, mean that authorities in England are now required to treat an applicant as threatened with homelessness if they have been served with a valid section 21 notice which expires in 56 days or less and have no other accommodation available for occupation. The effect of this is to trigger the authority’s homelessness prevention duty.
A new Homelessness Code of Guidance has been published which incorporates changes made by the 2017 Act.
Commons Briefing papers SN06856
Author: Wendy Wilson