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Unlawful Eviction

Your Rights During Eviction Process

"Osbornes team is noted for cross-practice expertise in areas such as housing and community care, which it brings to bear in disrepair, possession and homelessness cases involving vulnerable adults, individuals with language difficulties, the elderly and those with no recourse to public funds."

The Legal 500 Directory 2019

Unlawful Eviction

If you have been excluded or removed from a property by your landlord who has failed to obtain and execute a warrant for your eviction, then you may have been unlawfully evicted.

A landlord can normally only make a tenant leave their property by executing a court issued warrant for their eviction.

There are several steps a landlord must take to obtain a warrant for your eviction. They must comply with all these steps before they can lawfully require you to leave your home.

In most cases your landlord will need to serve you with Notice Seeking Possession or a notice to quit before issuing possession proceedings. The notice will give you a fixed period of time to vacate the property, after which a claim for possession can be issued.

After this your landlord must obtain an order for possession from the Court, and then if you have not vacated the property by the date specified in that order, they must obtain a separate warrant of eviction before being able to lawfully evict you. The eviction warrant will specify an execution date, which is the date that court bailiffs can attend the property and execute the possession order.

If your landlord has not followed this procedure, you may be able to bring a claim for unlawful eviction. In such a claim you can seek the following:

  • an urgent order reinstating to your home (assuming the property has not been re-let).
  • Damages for the distress caused to you of being unlawfully evicted.
  • Damages to cover any specific losses you have incurred, such as the cost of paying for alternative accommodation, or any items of your belongings that have been lost or damaged.

The following are examples of behavior that could be challenged in a claim for unlawful eviction:

  • If your landlord has threatened or harassed you, which has resulted in you leaving the property;
  • If your landlord has changed the locks at the property, or threatened to do so, at any point before the execution of a warrant from the court;
  • If your landlord has tried to force or coerce you to leave the property by making threats of violence or trying to physically remove you from the property;
  • If your landlord has taken your belongings from the property, damaged them, or has prevented you from having access to your belongings at the property;
  • If your landlord has stopped the supply of gas, electricity or water in an effort to compel you to leave the property.
  • If your landlord has said or done anything else that has led you feeling you are forced to leave your home.

What do I need to do?

If your landlord has evicted you from the property without obtaining and executing a warrant you should seek urgent legal advice.

You may be able to bring a claim against your landlord for unlawful eviction, seeking an injunction order to compel your landlord to allow you back into the property, as well as seeking compensation.

You should keep any evidence you have following the unlawful eviction, including receipts for any additional expenses you have incurred; for instance the cost of having to book a hotel room after you were excluded from your home. These kinds of expenses may be recoverable from your landlord.

Frequently Asked Questions

My landlord served me with notice, obtained a court order and a warrant for my eviction. The court bailiffs have arrived and changed the locks to the property. Have I been unlawfully evicted?

In this scenario it appears that your landlord has followed the correct procedure. You should check the terms of the order and check the date that the warrant was due to be executed, but it is likely that you have been evicted lawfully.

I think I have been unlawfully evicted. I want to return to the property and claim for compensation, but I am worried that I cannot afford legal advice. What should I do?

Legal Aid is available for unlawful eviction claims, both in terms of securing an injunction to return you to your home, and to seek compensation.   If you are eligible for Legal Aid we may be able to assist you on this basis. Depending upon your circumstances we may also be able to offer to fund your case under a conditional fee agreement (‘no-win, no-fee’), but this will not be available in all cases and will be subject to the firm carrying out a risk assessment of your case.

My landlord has changed the locks and now I cannot get into the property without a Court order. Have I been unlawfully evicted?

Yes, it sounds like you may have been unlawfully evicted. Unless your landlord has obtained a court order for possession and a warrant for your eviction they must not change the locks to the property.

I think I have been unlawfully evicted, but I have nowhere else to go. I am now paying for a hotel which I cannot afford. Can I recover the additional costs I am incurring?

Yes, you may be able to recover some or all of the additional costs you incur as a consequence of the unlawful eviction. This can form part of your “special damages” claim and the court can order your landlord to pay towards these costs. It is very important that you keep evidence of the additional costs you have incurred, such as receipts. You may need to make a homeless application to your local authority if you are not able to afford temporary accommodation.

My landlord put pressure on me to leave, I didn’t really want to leave but I decided to go voluntarily. Have I been unlawfully evicted?

It will depend upon what pressure your landlord has put you under. Depending on the circumstances and the evidence you have it may be that you have a valid unlawful eviction claim.

My landlord unlawfully evicted me, and I did not have access to my belongings. They have now allowed me to collect my belongings but there are items that are missing and some that are damaged. What can I do?

Your landlord should not have deprived you of access to your belongings and you may be able to claim compensation for the damaged / missing items.

The landlord has sent bailiffs to the property to remove me. They have hired a private company, and the baillifs are not from the court, can they force me to leave?

No. Only County Court appointed bailiffs or High Court sheriffs have the right to lawfully enter your property and to remove you. Bailiffs from private companies cannot lawfully execute a court warrant and cannot make you leave. You should seek legal advice immediately if your landlord takes their own steps to execute a warrant, even if they have got the warrant lawfully.

Case Study

Our client AN occupied temporary accommodation provided to her by the Local Authority. AN had been in this temporary accommodation for several years. AN suffered from bi-polar disorder and needed a lot of care and support. She would often visit family members away from the property. AN was away for a week staying with her sister. In that week the Local Authority visited the property twice to find that AN was not there. On this basis alone the Local Authority arranged for their managing agent to change the locks. AN returned to the property to find a warning pinned on the door stating that any attempt to enter the property would result in a prosecution for trespass. AN asked Osbornes Law for assistance.

Osbornes wrote to the Local Authority and threatened them with immediate court action if they did not allow AN back into the Property. The Local Authority at first sought to blame the agents they had employed to let the property to AN and denied any wrongdoing. However, the Local Authority ultimately accepted that it had to return AN to the property. The Local Authority denied that it had “formally evicted AN”. Our solicitor pointed out to the Local Authority that an “informal eviction” was an unlawful eviction and that the Local Authority should have served AN with a Notice to Quit, obtained a court order and then obtained a warrant to evict her. The Local Authority had not done this, so had unlawfully evicted N.

The Local Authority agreed to allow AN back into the property and settled the case. AN had been unlawfully excluded from the property for a period of 4 days and had been staying with her sister for that period. AN was made an offer of compensation for £1,500.00 which she accepted. She continued to reside at the property.

Useful links

Gov.uk: Private renting for tenants: evictions

https://www.gov.uk/private-renting-evictions/harassment-and-illegal-evictions

Shelter: What is illegal eviction?

https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/eviction/what_is_illegal_eviction

Shelter: What you can do about illegal eviction

https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/eviction/what_you_can_do_after_illegal_eviction

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