Illegal Eviction: Advice and Tenants’ Rights
The majority of private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. Landlords do not have to give a reason to ask tenants to leave a property, however as an assured shorthold tenant, tenants have the right to receive written notice to leave their home. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without following the proper legal process. Landlords who illegally evict tenants can be prosecuted, fined and/or given a custodial sentence.
Assured shorthold tenants’ rights
Tenants have the right to live in their home peacefully and without harassment. The landlord must not:
· threaten the tenant or force them to leave.
· change the locks while they are out.
· physically remove them from the property.
· stop them from getting into particular areas of their home.
These activities can be considered illegal eviction. The only person who can forcibly remove a tenant from a rental property is a court bailiff.
As mentioned above, landlords do not need to give a reason for wanting assured shorthold tenants to leave a property, although a common reason could be that they are selling the property.
· To ask a tenant to leave, a landlord must give at least two months’ notice in the form of a Section 21 Notice requiring possession.
· A Section 21 Notice cannot expire within the fixed term of a tenancy agreement.
· This guarantees the landlord possession of the property once the Notice expires.
Should the landlord claim that the tenants have breached one or more terms of the contract, for example not paying rent, they only need give a minimum of two weeks’ notice. In this instance, landlords serve a Section 8 Notice seeking possession, which must contain very specific wording, to the tenants. This type of notice can expire inside the fixed term of a contract.
Should the Notice expire before the tenants have left the property, the landlord has to apply to the court for a possession order. With a Section 21 Notice, the court has no choice but to grant the landlord’s wishes, as long as he or she has followed the correct procedure. A word of caution, tenants are liable to pay the landlord’s court costs should they cause the landlord to go to court to get a possession order and/or bailiff’s warrant.
If the tenants do not leave the property before or on the day specified in the possession order, the landlord must go back to the court to request a bailiff’s warrant. The court bailiff will then come to the property, on the date specified on the warrant, to change the locks and physically remove the tenants and their belongings from the property if necessary.
Advice for tenants
If you believe you have been illegally evicted you can ask your local authority for help.
· There may be a dedicated tenancy relations officer, alternatively the housing team should be able to help you.
· The council may be able to provide mediation and help resolve the situation.
· You may be able to get a court order to force the landlord to allow you back into the property if you have been illegally evicted.
Family Homes are letting agents with offices in Sittingbourne. We have been in business for over 30 years and are the leading and largest independent specialists in property lettings and management in the area. If you are being harassed by your landlord or have been illegally evicted you can contact us for advice.