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Housing charities campaign for tenant protection

Four housing charities have launched a joint campaign to win better protection for tenants who face sudden homelessness because their landlord is repossessed.

Shelter, Citizens Advice, Crisis and the Chartered Institute of Housing are raising the alarm over growing numbers of private tenants who face eviction with little or no warning, and through no fault of their own, because their landlord has defaulted on mortgage payments and the lender has taken possession of the property.

The organisations are calling for a change in the law which would mean courts would have the power to defer the possession to allow the tenant to find other suitable accommodation.

As the law stands, most 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 they come home to find bailiffs in their home.

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.

Shelter, Citizens Advice, Crisis and CIH have written to MPs urging them to sign an Early Day Motion calling for changes to the law to tackle the problem. They estimate that thousands of tenants in the private rented sector could be at risk of losing their homes in this way and are warning that urgent government action is needed to avoid a potential crisis.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, says: “At a time when many people are focused on homeowners, we risk forgetting that tenants of private landlords are extremely vulnerable to the recession. It is outrageous that the first time some people discover they are going to lose their home is when the bailiffs ring the doorbell. Tenants need legal protection to ensure that they at least have reasonable time to find somewhere else to live. The alternative too often can be homelessness.”

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