The Sunday Telegraph

‘My tenants are insisting that I ask a court to evict them’

- Secretland­

When my tenants called me last month, I thought it was to thank me for the new boiler I’d arranged to have fitted.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when they swerved my question about the new boiler and came back with: “We need to ask you something important,” and cleared their throat, noisily.

“OK …” I replied, feeling a little hesitant.

“We need you to serve us with a Section 21 notice.”

“Excuse me”, I said, “you need me to do what?”

“I’m sorry”, came the reply, “we’re very happy here, but we can’t afford another penny more and we need a bedroom for our child. They’re growing up and we can’t afford to move.”

Momentaril­y stunned, I hesitated. The tenants, a husband and wife with a young child, had been model tenants for three years. I knew their living arrangemen­ts were less than ideal in a one-bedroom flat, but with the cost of renting in London soaring, I knew their situation was one borne of necessity.

What had flummoxed me, however, was given they were good tenants (keeping the place clean and tidy and paying the rent on time), I had kept their rent increases to a minimum. An equivalent one bed in this desirable area lets for around £400 per month more than I was charging.

Perhaps I am naïve. Given the flat is spacious with a separate kitchen/diner, I had allowed them to reconfigur­e the living room as a bedroom to suit their needs. It was just furniture, after all I reasoned and I could raise the subject next year when the child was older, and the living arrangemen­ts were perhaps no longer suitable.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m trying to understand: are you asking me to evict you?” The response was an immediate: “yes.”

“You do understand there is a housing crisis and how difficult it is to find accommodat­ion?” I replied.

“Yes, we have no choice, that is why we’re asking you, please. We know you’re a good landlord and you will understand. We cannot afford a two-bedroom – we must apply for a council house.”

“A council house,” I spluttered. “There are over a million people waiting to be housed, what makes you think you will get a council house?”

“I’m sorry,” came the answer, “we have no choice, please serve us notice.”

The dejection and defeat in my tenant’s tone of voice ripped my heart out. I wanted to argue, but I knew it would fall on deaf ears so switched tack.

“Section 21 notices are legal documents. They cost money to prepare and once executed you’ll have to go to court and bailiffs could also be involved. There will be many expenses and a lot of stress. Your family may be out on the street with nowhere to live.” Their reply: “How much money do you need?” shocked me and I sat there dumbstruck.

“Can you at least think about this,” I pleaded. “There is absolutely no guarantee you will get a council house, in fact, you and your family may end up in a hostel with no cooking facilities miles from here.

“How will your child get to school? How will you get to work? This is a huge risk and I really am against it.”

We agreed we’d talk later in the week when my tenant had done more research. I urged them to speak to friends and family, hoping someone would convince them to drop the plan.

It made me sad later that week to find them adamant that they wanted me to serve the Section 21 notice. Serving an eviction notice is never something I do lightly, and being asked to serve one made my heart feel even heavier. But if I didn’t serve it, my tenants could cause me a whole world of pain. They could stop paying rent, they could damage the flat, they could refuse to cooperate with me – and I could end up being liable.

And that is the madness of the world we live in. I, as the landlord, do not agree with my tenant’s request. But they believe they will not be able to obtain larger accommodat­ion without forcing the council to house them. So they have backed me into a corner, from which I have no escape either.

I felt I had no choice, so I served the Section 21 as requested and wait for the notice to expire and the court shenanigan­s to begin. I’m angry with my tenant for putting me in this situation, but I’m angrier with the system. I provided good, safe, below-market-rent housing, but, I’ll be seen as the one to blame.

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