Harassment and Illegal evictions
Evicting a tenant is a serious business because when an individual is evicted they are technically made homeless. If you are a landlord make sure your frustration and annoyance (maybe justifiable), doesn't cause you to cross any moral or legal lines.
Illegal evictions are considered a crime. Private tenants have strong tenancy rights and can take legal steps against the landlord if attempts are made to evict them illegally.
What is considered Landlord harassment?
Any illegal attempt taken by the landlord to drive their tenants out of their rented property to take possession is considered harassment. Harassing the tenants to make them leave their house is a criminal offence. Common examples include:
- Disturbing the tenants in any way that prevents them from living in peace in the house
- Cutting off essential services like the electricity, telephone line or water supply to make the tenants leave
- Undermining the tenant’s legal rights in any way
- Disrupting the tenant’s peace by anti-social behaviour by someone on the landlord’s behalf (e.g. the landlord sending a friend or relative to disturb the tenants)
- Verbal threats or physical violence
- Changing locks of the rented house when the tenant is out, or removing their belongings without their knowledge
- The landlord refusing to take responsibility for any necessary maintenance or repairs
Steps a tenant can take to stop harassment
The first thing the tenant can do to stop these harassing actions is to contact their landlord and discuss the problem to find a solution. Paying any due rents or other bills may help to establish an understanding between the two parties. The tenant may also inform their landlord about the legal steps they can take if the harassment continues which could include contacting the police.
What is considered an illegal eviction
Forceful eviction of a tenant by the landlord before the bailiffs arrive is considered illegal, regardless of whether they gave the tenant an eviction notice or a possession order from court. The necessary steps to be taken by a landlord to evict a private tenant are:
- Sending the tenant an eviction notice
- Getting a possession order from the court (with or without a hearing)
- Applying to the court to send bailiffs to evict the tenants
Licensed bailiffs are the only people authorised to evict a tenant against their will. So, evicting the tenants forcefully before the arrival of the bailiffs is considered illegal even if the landlord has already applied for them to the court.
What can the tenant do if they are evicted illegally
- Keeping written record of all communication and agreement between the tenant and landlord as having everything in writing makes it easier to get legal aid in case of a dispute
- Recording any threats or taking pictures of any damage caused by the landlord as these can work as evidence in a case against the landlord
- Calling the police in case of an immediate danger
- Contacting the local council so they can send a tenancy relations officer to talk to the landlord on the tenant’s behalf
- Applying to the court for an illegal eviction injunction and claiming for compensation from the landlord
The tenant might have the right to re-enter the property after being evicted illegally, provided that it is not already rented by a new tenant. It is recommended for them to take advice from a tenancy relations officer to understand the legal procedure or re-entering the house and their right to do so.