A landlord in Essex has had to start eviction proceedings to remove a sitting tenant after she broke back into a rental property that she had vacated 24 hours earlier, allegedly on the advice of Havering Borough Council.
Lewis Selt, a landlord from Hertfordshire, has owned his two-bedroom first-floor flat in the town centre of Romford, Essex, for many years. A little over a year ago, he let his property to a single mother in receipt of housing benefit.
However, the landlord served notice for the tenant to leave at the end of the 12-month tenancy after she failed to pay her rent for several months, resulting in £2,000 rent arrears accrued.
The tenant surrendered the property and left with her belongings on the agreed date. The agent retrieved the keys from the property on the same day whilst carrying out his check-out report.
But the next day the tenant returned to the letting agent to ask if she could have the keys back and return to the property, after the council supposedly advised her to move back in.
She told the agent that Havering Council had said they would not rehouse her because she had voluntarily made herself homeless and that she should have remained in the property until she was evicted. When the agent refused, she explained that Havering Council had advised her that if the agent would not give the keys back, she should get a locksmith and break back into the property.
Robert Gordon, property manager for the landlord, said: “I went to the property the next morning to ensure everything was OK but my keys no longer worked. I could see that furniture had been moved back into the property. In an attempt to resolve the matter, I drove straight to the local council but no-one would speak to me or identify who had issued such ludicrous advice to a tenant who felt she had no choice but to break the law.”
Selt is now faced with a sitting tenant and having to start eviction proceedings. Although he could take legal action against the tenant under a trespassing law, he has decided to serve a Section 21 notice and a Section 8 notice in a bid to get his property back and recover money owed as quickly as possible.
Selt said: “Not only am I not receiving rent on my property, I’m now faced with eviction costs and yet I’m powerless to do anything about it.
“The agent has done everything possible to protect my interests but landlords and agents are facing a losing battle if local authorities are going to issue such ridiculous advice.”
It will now take approximately six to eight weeks for a judge to grant a possession order and if the tenant still refuses to leave, which she is likely to do based on advice by Havering Council, bailiffs will be called, according to Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, the company instructed by Mr Selt to evict the tenant.
Shamplina said: “Local authorities are forcing landlords to go to court to gain possession, running up considerable costs.
“Landlords are losing confidence in the system and turning away from communities which rely on their private housing to bridge the gap in the chronic shortage of social housing.
“This advice is exasperating the problem and something needs to be done.”