Housing law makes harassment and illegal eviction from your home a criminal offence. Councils have powers to prosecute anyone considered to have committed this offence.
The law says that if you are living in rented accommodation and the landlord/landlord's agent wants to evict you, the correct legal procedures must be followed.
Even if a Court Order is not required, it is an offence, under the Criminal Law Act 1977, for a landlord or anyone else, to attempt to gain possession of a property through the use of physical force,violence, or threats of physical force or violence.
It is not an offence however, for a tenant who has been illegally evicted from his/her property to immediately break back into it (e.g. By breaking a window or forcing the door) to re-secure it, provided there is not anyone in the property who objects to his/her doing so.
A tenant in this situation would have a defence against causing criminal damage under Section6 (3) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
The law states that it is an offence if the landlord or an agent acts in a way which is:-
- likely to interfere with your peace or comfort in the home or that of anyone who lives with you and/or
- persistently withdraws or withholds services which you reasonably require for occupation of the property.
These acts must however, be deliberate in that they are intended to cause you to:-
- leave the property or
- to stop you using part of the property or
- to stop you using your rights in respect of the property e.g. your right to enforce repairs.
Some examples could include
- interfering with essential services such as the gas, electricity or water supply, etc.
- threatening you or offering you money to leave.
- interfering with your possessions.
- entering your home when you are out or without your permission.
- preventing access to shared facilities such as the kitchen, bathroom, w.c. etc.
These are only a few examples. If you feel that you are being harassed in your home contact a Solicitor, Citizen's Advice Bureau or the Housing Advice Section.
Some landlords may force or lock their tenants out without following the correct legal procedures, usually, when they do not have proper grounds for eviction. This is called "illegal eviction".
If you are threatened with eviction or have been illegally evicted you should seek advice immediately from a Solicitor, Citizen's Advice or the Housing Advice Team.
Your Solicitor can apply to the Court for an Order called an "Injunction". This can force the landlord to let you back into your home if you have been illegally evicted and/or stop any harassment you have been suffering.
A landlord risks possible imprisonment if he/she does not abide by the terms of the Injunction.
Your solicitor can also ask the Court to make your landlord pay compensation or damages to you.
What the Council can do
Harassment and illegal eviction can be a criminal offence. Your Council has powers to prosecute your landlord under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 if there is sufficient evidence of harassment and/or illegal eviction.
What can you do?
In addition to (and separate from) any Council action, you may be able to take private civil action against your landlord under the Housing Act 1988. A Solicitor's help may be free if you qualify for legal aid. A list of local Solicitors should be available from your local Citizen's Advice.
If your landlord claims to know the law and tells you that you must leave, do not go without first getting advice from a Solicitor, Citizen's Advice or the Council - contact details below.
This may be available free if you qualify for legal aid. A list of Solicitors should be available from your local Citizen's Advice.
This information gives general guidance only and should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of the law.
In the first instance please telephone 01926 456359 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.