FOI request (FOIR-120303925)
Homelessness Reduction Act
Requested Wed 22 May 2019
Responded Thu 20 June 2019
I am making a Freedom of Information request to Hastings Borough Council after noticing an increase in the number of tenants being unlawfully advised to remain in their properties after a possession order has been granted or after notice has been given to the tenant at the expense of their landlord. Please respond within 21 days.
There has been an alarming increase in unlawful advice being provided to tenants contrary to the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 where tenants are advice by Hastings Borough Council to remain in possession of the property after the end of the notice period, forcing the landlord to cover the cost of eviction and enforcement proceedings.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the guidance is clear, that council have 56 days to find alternate accommodation or otherwise have taken relevant action as per their duty of care to the homelessness applicant and this 56 days coincides with the shortest notice period of 8 weeks afforded by a section 21 notice.
I'd like to request thorough answers to the following questions so as to get an understanding of how expansive the failures of Hastings Borough Council have been with regards to protecting vulnerable people at risk of homelessness and to understand how many people have been made to sleep rough as a result of unlawful advice provided by Hastings Borough Council.
1. How many tenants have been advised to remain in the property beyond the 56 day timescale afforded by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017?
2. How may tenants have been specifically advised to only make an application of homelessness once they've been evicted, rather than the point they become at risk of homelessness, contrary to the Act?
3. How many landlords have been compensated or reimbursed the legal fees of enforcing a possession order after Hastings Borough Council advised them to remain in the property beyond the deadline in the possession order?
4. How may tenants have become rough sleepers as a result of Hastings Borough Council not being able to assist tenants when they've approached Hastings Borough Council on the day they were removed by bailiffs/enforcement officers?
5. How many complaints has HBC received regarding advising tenants to remain in the property until enforcement of a lawful possession order at the expense of the Landlord?
6. Does Hastings Borough Council advise the tenant staying in the property, that they could be liable for all costs incurred to remove them and if unable to pay, could result in them having a CCJ awarded against them which may make it harder for them to rent in the future?
The expiry of a Section 21 notice does not automatically render an applicant homeless. Guidance is provided in Chapter 6 of the Homelessness Code of Guidance 2018. Advice and assistance is provided at the point of application and is ongoing until a solution can be sought to either prevent or relieve an applicants homelessness. It is not uncommon for applicants to wish to remain in their current accommodation despite eviction proceedings as a preferred solution to emergency accommodation which it is not always possible to secure locally.
1) Information not held or collected.
2) Information not held; however, the Act is quite clear that all presentations to the council will be accepted a duty (prevention or relief) if the applicant in threatened with homelessness within 56 days or is actually homeless. There is a clear systematic booking system and all applicants will be given an appointment with the Housing Options Team to process their application in accordance with the statutory duties. Advising an applicant to present when actually homeless would be counterproductive and of no benefit to the applicant nor the council. It is well documented that early preventative activity achieves better outcomes for the applicant opposed to being made homeless and placed in emergency accommodation, and is far more cost effective as a solution.
3) Information not held or collected.
4) Information not held or collected.
5) No complaints received.
6) There is a requirement to complete a personalised housing plan setting out the agreed actions the council will take and the applicant in order to prevent/resolve an applicants presenting housing issue. Advice provided should include specific advice regarding the agreed actions including any ramifications. Applicants will be advised of their options and it is not uncommon for them to choose to remain in their accommodation as a preferred solution to being offered emergency accommodation.
Freedom of Information