Illegal Eviction & Harassment

 

Following the Prime Minister’s speech to the nation on Monday 23rd March 2020 regarding the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, the Private Sector Housing & Public Health team will not be undertaking site visits or property inspections until further notice, except in urgent emergency situations (as determined by the case officer). All staff are now working from home and are unable to access incoming post sent to the Council or send outgoing post (apart from in a few exceptional circumstances). This is not a permanent arrangement but will continue for the foreseeable future and until restrictions are lifted on movement and access to certain facilities is made available again.

As well as advice on Coronavirus available via other links on the Arun District Council website, the following links may also be of particular use in regards to Housing issues: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping/covid-19-guidance-for-hostel-or-day-centre-providers-of-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
https://www.arun.gov.uk/coronavirus

Moving Property?
A link regarding moving from/to a new property during the Coronavirus restrictions for Private Sector Tenants.
A link regarding moving from/to a new property or Halls of Residence for Students during the Coronavirus restrictions.

Illegal Evictions and Harassment
The Government has announced that all evictions from 27th March 2020 have been put on hold for an initial period of 90 days (it may be extended) and during this period no evictions can take place, even if the process had been commenced prior to the Coronavirus outbreak. Tenants facing eviction during this period should continue to pay their rent as normal and all other aspects of the tenancy will remain as-is.
Tenants continue to be protected by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Harassment not intended to make someone give up or vacate their rented property should be reported to the Police, as per normal.
If you do find yourself homeless during this period you can still access the Council’s offices at the Civic Centre in Maltravers Road, Littlehampton and Bognor Town Hall in Clarence Road, Bognor Regis, both of which are remaining open for this service only. It would be more appropriate, if possible; however, to make contact via telephone in the first instance.

If you think you are being illegally evicted from a privately rented property, we will try to liaise with the landlord to help you return to your accommodation. We may undertake an investigation 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 available to you as the process for formal action can only start when you have actually been illegally evicted from the property. We will liaise with the landlord to help you return to the property. Our Housing Options or Homelessness Teams may be able to provide advice and information on emergency rehoming, although this will be dependent upon individual case circumstances. 

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, or, again, our Housing team may be able to help you.
 
Illegal eviction and harassment are criminal offences and the maximum penalty in a crown court is an unlimited fine and two years' imprisonment.
 
To report either of these two issues, you can use this report it form or call us on 01903 737755. 

 

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)

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, exceptions include sharing a property and/or amenities with your landlord or their family, if you have a Bare or Contractual Licence, 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. 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 already 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 licence 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 Licence).
 
Only on the Court's authority and by means of an official of the Court can a tenant be forced to vacate a premises.
 
To report an illegal eviction, you can either use this report it form or call us on 01903 737755. 

 

Harassment
The term harassment can mean the following:
  • Interfering with your peace and comfort in your home
  • Persistently withdrawing or withholding services
  • Persistently entering your home without an appointment or prior warning
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 another 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
  • Refrain from pursuing any remedy in respect of the whole or part of the premises 
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.
 
To report an incident of harassment, please either use this report it form, or call us on 01903 737755. 

Further information on harassment and illegal eviction is available in the leaflet My Landlord Wants Me Out [pdf] 256KBShelter also provide free housing advice.