Tenant help 'must come soon'

14 May 2009

Tenants packing to move

The law is to be changed to protect private tenants who face sudden homelessness when their landlord is repossessed. Shelter has welcomed the news, but warned that there must be no delay in introducing this protection.

Today’s announcement by the Government comes in response to a campaign by Shelter, Crisis, Citizens Advice and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). We raised the alarm over the growing number of private tenants who face eviction because their landlord has defaulted on mortgage payments and the lender has taken possession of the property. This is often with little or no warning to the tenant, and through no fault of their own.

We estimate that thousands of tenants in the private rented sector could be at risk of losing their homes in this way and have been warning that urgent government action is needed to avoid a potential crisis. In response, over 100 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for changes to the law to tackle the problem.

As the law stands, tenants whose landlords are repossessed have none of the legal rights that usually protect tenants from losing their homes without notice. Advisers report seeing cases where the first the tenant knows about the situation is when the bailiffs knock on the door.

In some cases their belongings have been put out on the street and the locks have been changed. In other cases they have no or very limited access to their things, including personal and valuable items. In one case a family with nowhere to go had to sleep in a car before moving into overcrowded and temporary emergency hostel accommodation a long distance from the children’s schools.

Sam Younger, chief executive of Shelter, said: 'With many landlords facing repossession in the current climate, tenants have been coming to our advice services across the country desperately needing protection against sudden eviction. In many cases they knew nothing about it until the very last minute and have nowhere to turn. We hope the new legislation will be implemented soon so that it can start making a real difference on the ground.'

Get advice if you are a tenant facing eviction due to repossession  

Landlord registration scheme announced 

The Government has also said it will introduce a mandatory registration scheme for private landlords, as called for in the recent Rugg Review.

Shelter chief executive Sam Younger said: 'We very much welcome this announcement as Shelter has been calling on the Government to set introduce more effective regulation of landlords.

'Effective regulation would help cut down on landlord abuses in the private rented sector, provide greater protection for tenants and give tenants the right to complain about landlords.'

Mr Younger added: 'We know many landlords are individual buy-to-let investors or people who simply can’t sell their property and therefore rent it out. But its still important they realise that being a landlord is a huge responsibility and not something to be undertaken lightly.

'At present the rules are heavily weighted against the tenant, but new robust regulation would mean landlords who flout their responsibilities would be banned from operating in the future.'