The accidental landlord: trapped by a tenant who is told by the council to stay

Landlords forced to go to court to evict someone must stick to the right procedures, says the accidental landlord.
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Here’s a bizarre story of a landlord who was stuck with a tenant who had given notice that she was leaving because she couldn’t afford the rent. However, just days before her tenancy was due to end, the landlord was notified by the local council that she wouldn’t be moving out because she had nowhere else to go.
The tenant had gone to the council for help and it had told her to remain in the property and wait for the landlord to evict her. Only when she is thrown out by the courts will it provide her with alternative accommodation.
If the tenant decides to leave before being evicted, the council will say she has made herself homeless and she will lose her right to council-funded accommodation. Faced with the prospect of sleeping on the streets, it is hardly surprising she refuses to budge until the bailiffs show up.
But the landlord feels betrayed by the tenant, because she didn’t tell him what she was planning to do, and he is furious that his local council has told her to sit tight.
If I were this landlord, I would feel like going round to the town hall housing department and shouting at someone in charge, but that wouldn’t end well. In reality, the only thing he can do if he wants to get the tenant out is to follow the correct legal procedures.
He hasn’t been able to talk with the tenant to try to come to a more amicable solution than eviction, because she has refused to take his calls and she has left the council to communicate with the letting agent on her behalf.
Fortunately for this landlord, the council is paying the full rent on the property, at least for the time being, so things could be a lot worse. Unfortunately, the landlord had already found new tenants for his flat and signed a contract with them, which he is now unable to fulfil.
This is a really good example of why you should never sign a new tenancy agreement until you are sure your old tenants have moved out, even if they, like this woman, give notice.
To make matters even worse, the tenant also complained to the council that the flat was mouldy. The landlord has no idea why — she hadn’t told him of any damp, but he is assuming it was done in an attempt to get herself on the council’s list for priority housing. She was trying to convince the powers-that-be that the flat she is refusing to leave is uninhabitable.
How is that for irony?
A damp report found that there was mould, but it concluded this was due to the tenant’s lifestyle. So now the landlord will have to clean up the mess she has made, once he has got her out. He is concerned that the woman’s deposit is unlikely to cover the cost of the clean-up and his legal fees.

Obviously, you have to be careful in handling situations like this. Much as you might want to yell at such a tenant to get the hell out of your property, or plead with them to leave, you must not do anything to intimidate or harass them.
Expensive and drawn-out as it might be, it is probably best to be cautious and leave these difficult cases to the professionals.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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