LEGAL EAGLE: Evictions at highest-ever levels

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Recent news reports have suggested that tenant evictions have just reached the highest levels on record.

The Guardian reports that nearly 20,000 social housing tenants were evicted in 2015.

Worryingly, these figures don’t include those who lost their home without going through the court process, which means that the true number of tenants evicted last year could be much higher.

Sadly, we see many people each day who are struggling to pay their rent for various reasons. Common reasons include being employed under a zero hours contract, not being able to find work, and benefits sanctions.

If you’re worried about homelessness, all is not lost. Generally speaking, landlords need a court order before they can ask you to leave the property.

For those in social housing, the court usually has to consider whether it is reasonable to make someone homeless.

If you are experiencing benefits problems or sanctions, and you are trying your best to fix things, you will have a good argument for saying it would be unreasonable for you to be made homeless.

Your landlord may even agree with you and negotiate a settlement or payment plan. If not, your solicitor can represent you and argue this on your behalf.

It’s always worth having professional advice. At David Gray Solicitors, our specialist housing team are experienced in negotiating with local authorities and social landlords. We have the knowledge and expertise to protect your interests and fight your corner as much as possible.

It can be tougher with private landlords as tenants have less protection, and it is very straightforward for your landlord to get a court order if you are more than eight weeks in arrears. That said, your landlord must still give you notice to move out in the proper format.

Our team can let you know whether your landlord has followed the proper procedures, and can deal with your landlord on your behalf. At best this could keep you in your home, and at worst we can clarify the situation for you and tell you where you stand.

We also find that many people don’t realise that legal aid is available for most housing problems. This means that if you’re in receipt of benefits or a low income, you may be entitled be able to get advice and representation from a solicitor at no cost to you.

l Bethany Symonds is a trainee solicitor in David Gray Solicitors’ Housing Team. You can contact Bethany on 0191 243 8147 for an appointment or Chat Live via the website.