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Finding Somewhere to Live

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tenants eviction accommodation

Tenants facing eviction will usually have very little time to find alternative accommodation once a possession order has been made. Unless there are exceptional circumstances in a landlord and tenant case a judge is likely to make a 14-day possession order.

There are two main problems encountered by tenants in this situation. Firstly, they are not likely to get a (good) reference from their landlord if possession was sought on the basis of rent arrears or some other breach of the tenancy agreement. Secondly, many tenants are dependent on the deposit lodged at the beginning of the tenancy to put down as a deposit on another property. Unfortunately, tenants are not entitled to have this returned until they have vacated. It is only once the property has been checked by the landlord and deductions made for any damage or disrepair that the tenants are entitled to have the deposit money returned.

Borrowers under a Mortgage

Borrowers facing eviction due to mortgage arrears are likely to be looking for a rented property. In order to rent they will need a deposit. The first priority for most borrowers is to put every penny they have towards the mortgage to avoid repossession. The fact remains that the mortgage debt will have to be paid off one way or another – whether by the borrower making payments towards the debt or by the property being repossessed and sold by the lender.

However, there may come a point when a borrower recognises that eviction is inevitable. At that stage it may actually make more sense for the borrower to retain whatever funds they do have available so that the money can be put towards the deposit and rent on future accommodation. This may involve planning ahead and keeping back some money for several months before eviction actually takes place. In reality it is probable that a borrower facing eviction will focus on the mortgage until the very last minute.

Local Authority Housing

Local authorities have a duty to help anyone who is homeless and this will usually include providing accommodation - even if only for a limited time. However, local authority resources are by no means unlimited and this obligation usually comes with conditions.

The main restriction on the duty to assist will be if the local authority concludes that an individual has made themselves “intentionally homeless”. This will depend on the circumstances of each case; it may also depend on the level of demand on the local authority’s housing stock. An obvious example is where someone who could afford to pay their rent or mortgage instalments failed to do so. If a person facing eviction decides to surrender the property voluntarily before eviction takes place this may also be interpreted as intentional homelessness. Many local authorities will insist that a person does absolutely everything possible to stay in the property before they will provide assistance. This may include making hopeless applications to postpone the eviction.

Some categories of people who are considered to be vulnerable –including pregnant woman and those with children – will be treated as priority cases.

If the local authority’s duty does apply it does not mean that people will automatically be moved into a family home – but it does mean that they should not find themselves on the street.

Social Services

Help may also be available from social services. The Housing Department of the local authority may refer an individual to social services if the Department thinks that they may qualify for help from them. For example, if the family of a disabled child faces homelessness social services will provide assistance in re-housing the family.

Charitable Organisations and Advice Centres

There are many well-known organisations with expertise in helping people who are homeless or who are threatened with homelessness. They are not only there to help people who have been living on the streets. Pride should not get in the way of asking for help when it is readily available.

There are many free advice centres specializing in housing problems. They will be able to advise people who face homelessness and direct them towards the organisation most likely to be able to help.

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