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.