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What eviction is illegal
Every eviction that is not conducted by the strict procedure of the law is illegal. The legal way to evict the tenants of any rented property that uses the assured shorthold tenancy agreement includes a time consuming legal pipeline:
- The landlord serves a section 21 notice
- The landlord waits for the two month period on the notice to expire
- The landlord serves a notice seeking possession and applies in the county court for a possession order
- The court grants a possession order and gives the tenant a date by which they must exit the property
- The landlord waits for the notice period on the possession order to expire
- The landlord summons the court bailiffs to execute the order and remove the tenant
- The tenant receives a notice when the bailiffs will come to expel them from the property
- The bailiffs appear on the said date and hour and enter the property to remove the tenant and their luggage
If the fixed period of the tenancy is still valid, the landlord must prove a valid ground for their tenant’s eviction. The tenant must break some part of the tenancy agreement to be eligible for eviction during their fixed term. Most commonly, this happens when tenants miss two months of rent payments, act violently or cause great amount of damage to the property.
Every step of the eviction features a notification to the tenant. These notices are essential as they inform the tenant of the current state of their eviction. Even if the property is repossessed by a mortgage lender, they must give you a notice period.
Their misuse or lack of is breaking the law and any further eviction is illegal. There are, of course, many degrees of which the landlord could have offended the law.
Some as are mundane as the property owner making a typing mistake. An example would be misspelling the tenant’s name on the Section 21 notice. Provided the mistake is registered at an early stage, the landlord shouldn’t suffer any harsh penalty. However, they will have to re-serve their notice with the mistake corrected. This will also reset the notice period.
There are many confusing steps, regarding the legal procedures and paperwork. Often landlords find themselves in error. You should watch out and inspect every document and legal step. You want to catch mistakes early on and challenge your landlord’s intentions.
However, there are cases when evictions can become harassing and violent to the renter. Especially, if their relationship with the landlord has experienced turmoils and disputes. An example would be the landlord forcefully enters the property and physically removes you.
Only the bailiffs, from the county court have the power to remove you from the property. This can only be done as the final stage in your eviction. Also it must be preceded by the landlord obtaining a valid court order for possession.
No other than the bailiffs is allowed to forcefully expel you. This is true, even if a valid possession order is presented. If your landlord, letting agent tries to enter the property without your approval, they are committing a serious offence. Harassment of any kind from the side of the landlord or any related party, is also a serious offence.
What is landlord harassment
Harassment is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as:
Acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property, or
persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises.
This law means tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment of their home. Landlords who intervene with that “quiet enjoyment” in a similar fashion to the list below might be guilty of landlord harassment.
Acts of landlord harassment
- Stopping services (such as electricity, water, heating, internet) or failure to pay bills, so they are cut off
- Withholding keys or changing the locks without their tenants agreement
- Interfering with standard services regarding the property like mail and deliveries
- Refusing to carry out repairs, reported by the tenant
- Anti-social behaviour by the landlord or their agent (threats and physical violence)
- Insulting and derogatory language, rude behaviour
- Intentional damage to the property as to interfere with the tenants daily life
- Passive aggression expressed in deprivation of previously available benefits (parking space, maintenance of common areas)
- Persistently offering the occupier money to leave
- Forcing you to sign an agreement that takes away your legal rights
- Persistent phone calls or emails to pressure you to leave the property
- Constant visits to the property (particularly if this occurs late at night or without warning)
- Entering the accommodation when the occupier is not there, or without her/his permission
- Allowing repairmen or other parties without a consent from the renter
- Stopping the tenant from having guests or nuisance them when they do
- Intentionally moving in other tenants who cause nuisance
- Discrimination because of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexuality, profession or another personal characteristic
The acts could be committed against the occupier or any member of her/his household, or their guests. Although the legislation refers to ‘acts’, one act could be sufficient.
To prove harassment in the court, it is not sufficient to merely show that the act was committed.
The tenant is required to prove both the act and the intention, or the reasonable cause to believe.
Where to go for help
Call the police if your landlord is violent or threatens violence towards you or anyone you live with.
Contact your council and ask for help from tenancy relations officers. Your local council can prosecute your landlord for illegal eviction and harassment
Shelter.org.uk can provide help to individuals to help fight eviction
GOV.UK has published a guide on what to do if you are being harassed by your landlord and what to do if you are being threatened with an illegal eviction.
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our Eviction category.
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