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Ombudsman upholds complaint by landlord over council advising tenants to stay in property after possession order

Brentwood Borough Council has been found by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) to have caused injustice to a local landlord.

The Ombudsman said ‘Mr X’ was correct that the council failed to consider statutory guidance when it advised his tenants to remain in his property after a court made a possession order, which he said led to loss of rental income and additional court costs. He asked Brentwood to pay him £1,389.50 based on these factors.

In his report the Ombudsman said the council must have regard to the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities.

This stated the factors councils must consider to decide if it is reasonable for a private sector tenant served with a valid Section 21 Notice to remain in a property after the notice has expired.

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Mr X decided in February 2019 not to renew Mr Y and Ms Z’s tenancy when it expired the following month though was willing for them to remain until July.

The couple stopped paying rent at the end of March and in May that year were served Section 21 and Section 8 notices to terminate their tenancy, on which arrears of £1,900 has accumulated.

They were told Mr X would make a claim for possession if they did not leave the property by 11 July 2019.

They contacted Brentwood but meanwhile arrears accumulated and Mr X secured a possession order.

Mr X set an eviction date in September 2019 for Mr Y and Ms Z, who by then owed him more than £5,000 in rent and his court costs.

He said that by advising his tenants to remain until the eviction date the council caused him to lose more rent and incur further court costs.

After Mr X complained Brentwood acknowledged some fault in that it could have been more pro-active in contacting Mr X to request information rather than relying on Mr Y to provide it, and offered to pay Mr X £1,127.52 for the loss of rental income.

The Ombudsman concluded: “It seems more likely than not that if the council had considered the advice in paragraph 6.36 of the code, and made contact with Mr X, they would have decided it was not reasonable for Mr Y and Ms Z to remain in the property.

“The injustice to Mr X is the additional lost rent and the cost of applying for a warrant for eviction. There would have been no need to make that application if the council had acted sooner to accommodate Mr Y and Ms Z."

Brentwood agreed to apologise to Mr X, pay him £1,127.52 for lost rent, plus his £451.71 court costs and £100 for having misdirected him initially to the Housing Ombudsman.

The council has been approached for comment.

Mark Smulian

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