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Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Rental repossessions on the rise

John WAlker
John Walker has received two repossession notices in four weeks.

It's a sign of the times - tenants are facing eviction because their landlords can't pay the mortgage.

John Walker is now leaving his second rented flat in four weeks. Both moves have followed repossession notices.

Mr Walker and his partner moved to Harrogate in Yorkshire from the midlands in February.

They searched carefully for the perfect property and were delighted when a period flat that suited all their requirements came up.

Disaster strikes

However the day before they moved in, Mr Walker's partner went to collect the keys and discovered a nasty surprise.

dream home
Their dream home became a nightmare

"The keys didn't work. There was a notice on the door, saying the flat had been repossessed," says Mr Walker. "It had happened that morning - so the day we were due to get the keys to the flat it had been repossessed."

The shocked pair rang their letting agents, Thomlinsons, who acted swiftly and found them a new flat in record time. By chance it was in the same building, directly above the original apartment.

History repeating

However just three weeks later another repossession notice arrived.

"We got a letter saying this place was being repossessed as well, a court proceeding was in place, and we'd soon be getting an eviction note," Mr Walker recalls.

At that point they decided to part company with the agent.

"They're not convinced that this flat is due for repossession," he adds, "but it's happened to us once, and we don't want to be involved with it again."

Mr Walker estimates that each move is costing the couple up to £600.

Tenants need more rights

We see cases where the first tenants know about the situation is when they return home to find bailiffs in their home or the locks have been changed
Citizens Advice Bureau

The agent involved declined to comment, but Citizens Advice says it is hearing from increasing numbers of people asking for help after the repossession of a rented property.

"We see cases where the first tenants know about the situation is when they return home to find bailiffs in their home or the locks have been changed," said a spokesperson.

It is planning a campaign to improve rights for tenants because at the moment, they don't have many.

Rule change

The Civil Protection Rules are changing next month. Mortgage lenders intending to repossess will have to send notice to tenants within five days of receiving notification of a court hearing - which could then be weeks ahead.

This will help because at the moment, tenants are only legally required to be informed 14 days before the actual hearing itself.

Citizens Advice think the new rules will result in tenants receiving between three and seven weeks notice of a possession hearing.

It all depends on what type of mortgage your landlord has however - if it's not buy-to-let you may not get any notice at all.

Advice for tenants

  • Always open mail addressed 'To the Occupier'. This may include notice of any possession hearings.
  • If you're thinking of moving into a new property, make sure the landlord has permission from the lender to rent it out. Otherwise, the lender does not have to recognise the tenancy at all.
  • If you were already living in the premises at the time when the mortgage was taken out, the lender may take you on as a tenant and allow you to pay rent to them directly. If you think you may be in this position, contact Citizens Advice.
  • Try to find out as much you can about your prospective landlord and his/her mortgage status before taking up a tenancy - although in practice this isn't always very easy.

(source: Citizens Advice)

Watch again
05 Sep 08 |  Working Lunch
Repossession up 54%
24 Feb 09 |  Moneybox
Mortgage support schemes launched
16 Mar 09 |  Scotland

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