Tenant and private landlord left shocked by 'heavy-handed' housing tactics from Milton Keynes Council
Couple advised not to leave under Section 21 and take their friendly landlord to court instead
A shortage of council housing in MK has led to 'unethical' tactics when private Iandlords need to sell their properties, it has been claimed.
The MK Citizen was contacted by a landlord who, for personal reasons, needs to sell the house on Beanhill he has been letting privately for several years to a couple who are family friends.
The tenants are totally understanding of the situation, he said.
Following the law, the landlord issued a Section 21 notice earlier this year, giving them at least eight weeks to leave the property. He then helped them contact MK Council's housing department for guidance in finding alternative accommodation before the date expired.
But the result left both the landlord and tenants shocked.
In an email to the tenants, a Milton Keynes Council housing support officer wrote: 'Hello there. Please note that you don't have to leave the property by the date stated on the section 21 unless you have an alternative property to move into. Once the date on the Section 21 has passed, then the landlord can apply for possession of the property from the court and a hearing date will be set'.
It adds: 'Once the court approves possession then an eviction date will be set. That's the actual date you need to leave the property by'.
The tenants, who both have ongoing health problems, say they were told they would be classed as making themselves intentionally homeless, and therefore unable to be helped by the council, unless they "pursued eviction" through the courts.
MK Council say its approach was in line with advice given by homeless prevention charity Shelter. But the tenants and their landlord say they are "completely frustrated" by the process.
"It seems to be a blatant disregard for the law and it is causing massive amounts of stress to me, my family and my current tenant. All we asked for was support and we get this!" said the landlord.
"This approach feels unethical and potentially illegal and we would like to understand why Milton Keynes council are advising private tenants they cannot support them unless they take this route. All we want to do is comply with the Section 21 notice.
"MK Council is actively encouraging my tenant to breach the section 21 notice even though there are no grounds for a possession order in this instance . They are going against law behind a notice issued per government guidelines... It's pushing landlords to pay more fees to the government which also feels like blatant profiteering."
The notice period is due to expire on the July 1 and the tenant is still no nearer finding an affordable property.
The man said: "The person I spoke to at the council said we need to stay put in this property until the landlord takes us to court - and even then still sit and wait for bailiffs to come. Otherwise we'd be making ourselves homeless.
"To be honest, me and my partner have been so worried about this. The landlord has been brilliant with us and us to the landlord ... We have looked at other private properties but unless we earn £47,000 a year or more it's not happening."
Another email from a different MK Council housing officer to the tenant explains: "Clients approaching the Housing Solutions Team are advised of their rights to remain in the property after the expiry date of the Section 21 Notice if they have not been able to secure alternative accommodation by the this date. Clients are informed that should they choose to leave the property without having secured suitable accommodation for their housing needs they face the potential for an intentionally homeless decision being made against should they subsequently approach us for assistance.
"As you rightly identify in your communications, it is in the interest of all parties for the council, the landlord and tenant to engage in dialogue to agree an action plan that resolves the needs of the landlord and tenant without the risk of the tenant becoming homeless."
A spokesman for MK Council told the Citizen: "The council always advises tenants of their legal rights to remain in the property when faced with an eviction notice from a private landlord. The law entitles tenants extra time to find new accommodation. We are working with both the tenants and the landlord to find alternative accommodation in the best interests of everyone involved."
He added: "Our approach is in line with advice given by the homeless prevention charity Shelter and our commitment to tackling homelessness in MK."