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Residential Evictions; the rights and wrongs

Living in rented accommodation comes with plenty of uncertainty. A landlord could serve an eviction notice on a Tenant at any time, especially if a tenancy agreement has ended. But sometimes, evictions are unfair, unjust, or plain illegal. So what constitutes an illegal eviction and what can tenants do to defend their rights?

When the landlord has the right to evict

Landlords can evict tenants:

  • If the end of a fixed term contract has been reached.
  • At the end of the period set out in a legal notice to leave (a section 21 notice, minimum 2 months notice).
  • By obtaining a section 8 notice, which can notify you of eviction at any time during the duration of the tenancy agreement, for example if you are in arrears or have broken the terms of your tenancy agreement.

A ‘Notice to Quit’ must first be served on the Tenant. If the Tenant doesn’t leave then the landlord has the right to apply to the court for a possession order. However, there is no guarantee that the court will grant the order, and Tenants are entitled to present their case in court if they disagree with the landlord’s claims.

Who is allowed in?

Only high court enforcement officers (bailiffs) have the right to forcibly remove a tenant. The landlord or letting agent does not have right of access to a property without a tenants permission, and forced entry could be regarded as harassment.

The key piece of legislation to refer to is the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which clearly lays down the various definitions of harassment, which includes refusal to carry out repairs, intentional damage to the property, insulting or threatening behaviour, withholding keys, or changing the locks.

Many of these tactics are used by unscrupulous landlords to force tenants to move out. An eviction that has been brought about by constant harassment (or even bribery) constitutes an illegal eviction, especially if they forcibly throw a tenant out of the property, change the locks to prevent a tenant gaining entry, or threaten a tenant. Remember that, even when a landlord has a court order, the only people that can remove a tenant from your property are high court enforcement officers.

The law is designed to provide protection for both landlords and tenants when it comes to evictions. It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that any eviction is legally compliant, and the tenant is obliged to comply with the tenancy agreement, as well as with the law.

If you need any advice either as a tenant or a landlord contact our Dispute Resolution Department for an initial fixed fee appointment on 01202 294411.

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