A new initiative is being launched for County Durham landlords to help them avoid costly evictions and prevent homelessness.

In March, the Government introduced a freeze on evictions to help those financially hit by the coronavirus lockdown. The ban was due to be lifted this month, but has been extended for four weeks.

To tackle an expected surge in court applications once the ban is lifted, Durham County Council has launched the free specialist service “Stop B4 You Serve” for landlords looking to seek possession of properties.

The scheme aims to aid private landlords to find alternative solutions to tenancy-related issues and to help them avoid the costly and lengthy process of serving an eviction notice. In addition, the service could also help landlords with non-payment of rent and provide assistance with benefit applications – alongside mediation services with tenants.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, Cllr Kevin Shaw, said: “We’re committed to preventing homelessness in the county and we want to work with landlords to avoid the costly and lengthy process of serving an eviction notice and help find a solution for both parties before it is too late.

“The effects of the coronavirus outbreak have significantly impacted the personal and financial situations of many residents in the county. 

“As the ban on evictions is expected to be lifted, we want to avoid a surge in potential homelessness as a result of a sudden wave of evictions. 

“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.”

Council bosses have stressed the importance of early intervention work, with both landlords and tenants, to help avoid eviction notices or assisting once they have been served.

The new Stop B4 You Serve service can help provide specific solutions for landlords including: rent arrears assistance; financial assessment of tenants; mediation service; help and advice on planned moves.

For more information, go to www.durham.gov.uk/preventeviction