An innovative new scheme in County Durham has been launched to help landlords find alternatives to eviction.

Stop B4 You Serve is the council’s new initiative aimed at landlords considering serving a possession order on their tenants, helping them avoid the costly and lengthy legal process once the courts reopen next month.

Council bosses reckon this early intervention work can prevent homelessness and avoid section 21 or section 8 notices being issued, or at least offer help once they’ve been served.

The free specialist service is for landlords dealing with non-payment of rent (both coronavirus and non-coronavirus related arrears) and can set up a personalised housing plan that’s agreed with the tenant.

Rent arrears

It also offers rent arrears help by establishing repayment plans, and helping tenants access housing benefit services, Universal Credit and other local government homeless prevention funds and charities.

Landlords can ask for a financial assessment of tenants to maximise rental income, while the council can make referrals for more long-term support and can also provide a mediation service between landlords and tenants.

Durham County Council says it’s anticipating a surge in applications to the courts and wants to prevent unnecessary evictions and resulting homelessness.

Councillor Kevin Shaw, cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, adds that the effects of the coronavirus outbreak have significantly impacted the personal and financial situations of many residents in the county.

“We want to work with both landlords and tenants to find a more sustainable solution to any issues, keep eviction notices as a last resort, and prevent any risk of homelessness in the county,” he says.

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