A test complaint we’ve wanted to try for quite some time now has been decided (the complaint was not by us nor one of our members).

After a landlord has served a 2 months section 21 notice, commonly the tenant will go to the local authority saying they are threatened with homelessness and will seek assistance.

The local authority will in most cases inform the tenant to remain in occupation until the landlord has obtained a possession order.

It has been our long held view that although local authorities offering this advice are technically correct, they are failing to provide all the relevant information namely that such an action will result in the tenant being liable for the court costs (currently £280.00 but set to rise further).

A complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman has been made on precisely this point.

In the complaint against Herefordshire Council (14 013 401) 30 March 2015, it was accepted by the Ombudsman that the council were entitled to tell the complainant they should remain in possession but that that advice should have also explained that court costs would be made against the complainant for the possession order.

There was no fault in the Council advising Mr X to stay in his flat until his landlord got a possession order. But the Council failed to clearly explain to him he might have to pay his landlord’s costs. This was fault. I uphold his complaint about that. But there was no significant injustice to Mr X, through this.

In this particular case, the complainant couldn’t show any specific financial loss as a result of remaining in occupation and that would need to be shown on an individual basis. However, if in some future case it is possible to show a loss, it is likely the local authority may be asked by the Ombudsman to pay compensation equivalent to that loss (up to the amount of the court fees) to the complainant.

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