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Ombudsman tells council to pay compensation over forcible eviction by landlord

Maidstone Borough Council should pay compensation to a homeless family of £4,170 after it accepted their forcible eviction at short notice from temporary accommodation, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said. 

The family had been living in accommodation arranged by the council with a private landlord.

But following allegations about moving furniture and a child defacing the walls, the landlord immediately evicted them, moving their belongings outside. 

Ombudsman Michael King said: “Maidstone Council sided with the landlord and allowed him to unlawfully evict this family with little notice, without hearing the family's point of view.

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“The council has told me it could not prevent the landlord from evicting the family. But it is not acceptable for the council to simply have terms dictated to them by their suppliers, which then contravene the law.”

Following their eviction the family paid for bed and breakfast accommodation for nearly a week, while asking Maidstone to review its decision to discharge the full housing duty.

Following intervention from the charity Shelter, the council decided the family should have had four weeks' notice to leave the flat.

They were given accommodation for four more weeks, but also handed a 'notice to quit' letter giving them a month to leave any temporary accommodation provided by the council. This was later reversed and they were found permanent housing.

The LGO said Maidstone mishandled the family's homelessness application, allowed an unlawful eviction, failed to investigate allegations of the landlord's harsh behaviour and did not allow the family to give their side of the story.

He call on Maidstone to apologise and pay the family £2,000 for their distress, plus £500 for lost or damaged belongings, £550 for the bed and breakfast accommodation, £370 for removal and storage costs and £750 for the cost of takeaway food for the two months while in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Council leader Fran Wilson, said: “This is an extremely complex case and we are considering this report and its findings. It is disappointing that we are found to be at fault and it will be discussed at our full council meeting, where a decision will be made about what action needs to be taken.”

Mark Smulian

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