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Landlord pays price for changing locks on rented property

  • Posted
Landlord pays price for changing locks on rented property

A private landlord was recently prosecuted by Halton Council for changing the locks on a property he was letting to a tenant and refusing to allow that tenant access to that property. The incident which occurred in January 2016 resulted in the tenant becoming homeless due to having nowhere else to stay. The tenant was also separated from their belongings.

As a result of the landlord’s actions, he was found guilty to a charge under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 at Warrington Magistrates’ Court. The landlord was fined £440.00 and ordered to pay the councils court costs.

It is a criminal offence for a private landlord to evict a tenant without following the correct legal steps for eviction. Only a bailiff can lawfully evict a tenant from their property. However, before a bailiff can change the locks on a property, a landlord must give the tenant the correct notice to leave and then get a Possession Order from the court once the notice expires. Only after the Possession Order has expired can the landlord then apply for the bailiffs to come to the property to change the locks. It is illegal for a landlord to force a tenant to leave the property before the bailiffs arrive, even if the landlord has obtained a Court Order requiring the tenant to leave. It is also unlawful for a landlord to change the locks on the property himself. 

There are a number of things that a tenant can do if their landlord illegally evicts them from their property. They should first contact the police to make them aware of the situation. The police should come to a tenant’s home to see if they can prevent violence or a breach of the peace. However, in some circumstances the police may not attend the property or state that they cannot take any steps to help the tenant due to the incident being classed as a civil matter. If this is the case, the tenant may be eligible for public funding, which means that they have access to free legal advice for help with getting re-admitted into the property.  If the landlord is not willing to re-admit the tenant, they may also be able to get help with getting an Injunction from the court forcing their re-admission into the property, as well as compensation for the unlawful eviction itself.

Stephensons has a team of specialist solicitors who are able to help tenants who have been evicted unlawfully from their homes with being re-admitted, getting their belongings which were left in the property returned to them and if necessary, making an Application to Court  for an Injunction Order for re-admittance. Both the court and the council take allegations of illegal eviction very seriously and are prepared to take action against landlords who violate their tenants’ rights.

Comments3

    • Landlord refuses Tenant entry because of Covid fears.Brian Hirschfield
    • Posted

    Guildford based Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement for 6 months room rental and shared bathroom / toilet / kitchen and common room Dec 1 2019. Tenant in paid employment, check and reference given by supervisor at place of employment. Rent paid weekly, but inconsistent.; TA lapsed with neither side confirming extension / termination. Rent arrears of circa 2 months. Tenant's employment terminated after furlough of circa 3 months, and on benefits from circa August. I agreed to be reasonable and he could pay what he could when he could. Issued 6 month termination letter Dec 12th 2020 on returning to property as full time home (previously stuck in France because of Covid). Tenant did not break COVID rules but sent "guilt trip" messages about ADHD, Epilepsy; Mental Health issues and being "prisoner in his room". Thursday 7th Jan left property, no explanation. No communication, till I informed on Tuesday 11th he was breaking COVID law putting me at exceptionally high risk of COVID transmission and potential death as I am group 5 (over 60, asthmatic and diabetic). And would refuse entry. Substantial malicious communications, I feared imminent personal safety for myself and wife. My wife left the premises and is suffering from extreme mental stress, panic / asthma attacks and anxiety. I called Police explained all. They called him, he told them he was in Southampton and thus not possible to imminently harm me. I now understand the tenant is known to the police. They confirmed via phone to tenant, because of the proven malicious communications - CRO / arrest if he returned. 

    Police explained Tenant's rights - of which I am aware - and also confirmed it is a Civil matter. My wife returned home but is extremely nervous and fearful of Tenant's return. 

    After police left further malicious communications with demands for belongings. Made every attempt and reasonable effort to delivery belongings to local address immediately. Tenant claimed no-one available locally to take delivery. Now know ex girlfriend, living locally, has restraining order against him and his room, in my house, was subject to a police search warrant for illegal child images. I had no knowledge until today. I have made arrangements to delivery all tenant's personal belongings to address given in Southampton, at my expense. 

    Tenant is now telling me he will return tomorrow with police to "return home". My wife's stress and mental anguish is off the charts. 

    His room has been cleared of all belongings including - cannabis and smoking detritus - in contravention to his TA and necessarily sanitised of all other detritus including mould and bacteria laden crockery much older than the week he has been vacant, at my expense.

    What is my maximum exposure if I take ALL reasonable precautions to prevent his entry to prevent my exposure to potential death and my wife's sanity?

    Thank you

    Brian Hirschfield

    Response from Stephensons

    Hi Brian, thank you for your comment - if you would like to speak to a member of our team to discuss how we could help you with this issue please call us on 0161 696 6170 - alternatively if you would like us to call you directly please email your comment and contact details to enquiries@stephensons.co.uk and a member of the team will be in touch. 

    • Reply to Helen LomasStephensons
    • Posted

    Hi Helen, thanks for your comment, if you would like to speak to a member of our team please contact us on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.

    • Help helen lomas
    • Posted

    Please.