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Illegal Eviction

Coronavirus: Landlords and Renters

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). With these in force, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

  • From 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession. This means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.
  • From 27 March 2020 the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action. This means that neither cases currently in the system nor any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.
  • Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available and we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
  • Landlords will also be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgages.
  • Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.

If any person other than a court bailiff forces an occupier to leave their home, they are committing a criminal offence, even if the occupier has failed to pay the rent or has breached their tenancy/licence agreement. 

This may be different where the landlord lives in the same building as the tenant or no rent is payable (money or in kind). In this case the landlord commits an offence if they remove an occupier without having given reasonable notice, if they use more than reasonable force, or if they fail to give the occupier their belongings back.

Types of illegal eviction

Illegal eviction usually happens when a landlord or any person acting on his/her behalf forces or attempts to force a tenant to leave their home without following the correct procedure. A landlord has probably broken the law if he/she has:

  • Told you to get out of your home without proper notice
  • Physically or verbally threatened you
  • Locked you out of your home
  • Cut off your gas or electricity
  • Stopped you getting into part of your home

The law makes it a criminal offence for them to evict you without obtaining a court order, unless you are covered by one of the exceptions listed above..

Penalties

Magistrates can impose a £5,000 fine and imprison a landlord for 6 months.  Crown Courts can impose more severe penalties.

A legal remedy to stop illegal eviction or harassment is for the tenant to apply to the County Court to get a Court order. This will require the landlord to stop harassing the tenant and/or to give back their home if they have been unlawfully evicted. This can be an effective form of action because if the landlord breaches the order they can be sent to prison. The tenant can also seek compensation.

Tenants wishing to discuss legal options may speak for free to DHA on 01332 287 850 or the Civil Legal Advice Helpline on 0845 345 4345, or find a solicitor.

Role of the Police

The Police are responsible for dealing with crime in progress. Staffordshire Police should be called at the time an occupier is being unlawfully removed or excluded from their home or being threatened with violence.  The Police will seek to prevent a crime being committed and will collect evidence to support prosecution.

Role of the Council

The Environmental Health Team investigates allegations of illegal eviction and harassment - 01283 508847

The Housing Options Team advises occupiers about their rights and assists homeless households - 01283 508120

The Landlord Relationship Manager advises landlords about their rights and responsibilities - 01283 508149

Further Information

Source Description
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 Describes the law on Illegal Eviction and Harassment
Eviction from your home The Council's web page advising tenants facing eviction what to do
Evicting your tenant The Council's web page for landlords describing correct procedures for evicting tenants lawfully