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Arun

Harassment and Illegal Eviction

Harassment and Illegal Eviction
 
You should always seek independent legal advice from a solicitor if you find that you have been illegally evicted.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Private Sector Housing and Public Health Team will try to liaise with the landlord to help you return to your rental accommodation or will undertake an investigation into the matter if you are found to have been illegally evicted and sufficient evidence can be collected for enforcement action. If you consider that you have been harassed or illegally evicted, you should keep a careful note of all incidents and inform the Council, who will try to resolve the dispute and consider if a prosecution is appropriate. This evidence may be needed should any case go to Court. If you have been illegally evicted and want to return to your home, you should contact a Solicitor who can act on your behalf to gain access.
 
If you have been threatened with eviction but it has not actually occurred there is only a limited amount of help that the Department can provide as the process for formal action can only start when the act has ocurred, i.e. you have actually been illegally evicted from the property. The Department will try to liaise with the landlord however to help you return to the property.
 
Unfortunately the  Private Sector Housing and Public Health Team cannot provide any form of alternative accommodation, interim accommodation or emergency accommodation. The Council's Housing Options or Homelessness Teams may be able to provide advice and information to help in situations where this has occurred, although this will be dependent upon individual case circumstances. Further information on this can be found at the following links: Homelessness or Housing Options or by contacting the Teams via the Council's Contact Centre on 01903 737755
 
If you have received a "Notice to Quit" from your landlord you may want to obtain further advice from a Solicitor or the Citizens' Advice Bureau you can also contact a Housing Officer at Arun District Council's Housing Options Team.
 
What is Illegal Eviction?  

The correct legal procedure a landlord must follow to require a tenant to leave will vary according to the type of tenancy. In most cases, tenants will be entitled to a Notice to Quit. Illegal eviction might include:

  • Being evicted from your home without sufficient Notice
  • Normally 8 weeks Notice required from your landlord for Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) (May be shorter if there are rent arrears of 8 weeks or more)
  • Being evicted without written Notice
  • Returning home to find the door locks have been changed
  • Being evicted without a court order (there are some exceptions)
  • Find Out More
The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 aims to protect a broad range of occupants, known as "Residential Occupiers". It is a criminal offence if any person "unlawfully deprives the residential occupier of his occupation of the premises or any part thereof, or attempts to do so", in other words a landlord cannot except in a few cases evict a tenant from a property without gaining consent through the Courts.
 
Most tenants and licensees who occupy premises as a residence are within this definition whilst they remain in occupation and can only be evicted by a Court Order; however there are exceptions including if you share a property and/or amenities with your landlord or their family or if you have a Bare License or Contractual License or are a lodger. In these cases the period of required Notice may be shorter, may only need to be "reasonable", or may be dependent upon your job continuing. For example if the accommodation is tied to your employment the right to occupy may end at the same time as the job finishes, although this should be stated in your employment contract and therefore alreay advised to you.
 
A Landlord must serve a Notice to Quit on their tenants which usually gives 4 or 8 weeks notice period to leave (depending on the circumstance or the tenancy or License type). Assured SHorthold Tenancies require two months' Notice and the notice period can only expire at the end of a complete rental period. After this time period the Landlord must go to Court to get a possession summons (except in the case of a Bare License).
 
Only on the Court's authority and by means of an official of the Court can a tenant be forced to vacate a premises.
 
The Private Sector Housing and Public Health Team can only take action when an illegal eviction has actually taken place (i.e. after the event), however intervention by the Department before this occurs may prevent an eviction taking place through negotiation with the landlord and advising them of the legal implications. We can also advise them of the legal implications of harassment of a tenant.
 
 What is Harassment?
  • Interfering with your peace and comfort in your home
  • Persistently withdrawing or withholding services
  • E.g. Your landlord or agent persistently enters your home without an appointment or prior warning
  • E.g. Your landlord disconnects your electricity supply or does not pay the bill causing the supplier to cut you off
  • Find Out More
There are two separate offences of harassment, one where the accused is the victim's landlord (or an agent of the landlord) and the other where the accused is some other person. The offence of harassment comprises two elements: Culpable Behaviour "The Guilty Act" and Intention "The Guilty Mind".
 
The Guilty Act comprises doing anything to interfere with the peace and comfort of a residential occupier or members of their household and includes causing excessive noise, withholding services or entering the property uninvited.
 
The Guilty Mind is where the landlord or his agent knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the conduct is likely to cause the residential occupier to:
  • Give up their occupancy of part or all of the property,
  • Refrain from exercising any right in respect of the whole or part of the premises (e.g. applying for a fair rent), and
  • Refrain from pursuing any remedy in respect of the whole or part of the premises (e.g. taking court action to get repairs done).

As well as being an offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 this is also an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, where it only has to be shown that an act by somebody pursues a course of conduct which "amounts to harassment of another" and "which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other". 

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and the Criminal Law Act 1977 create specific legislation relating to the protection of most types of occupants of accommodation from Illegal Eviction and Harassment. Offences may also be committed against occupants under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Illegal Eviction and Harassment are Criminal Offences and the maximum penalty in a Crown Court is an unlimited fine and two years' imprisonment.
 
You can obtain further information on harassment and illegal eviction by viewing or downloading a copy of 'My Landlord wants me out'

If you have received a Notice to Quit, you may want to obtain further advice from a Solicitor or the Citizens' Advice Bureau you can also contact a Housing Officer at Arun District Council's Housing Options Team. 

Shelter, the National Homeless and Housing Charity Phone has a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. Lines are open seven days a week from 8am to midnight and they should be able to help answer any questions and provide advice if you find yourself potentially homeless or illegally evicted.

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