It is a criminal offence to evict somebody from residential accommodation without a court order or to harass them into leaving. Bear in mind this does not apply to ‘squatters’ who have broken into a property.
Unfortunately, our very hard working police officers are not always up to date on the relevant legislation and sometimes think that it’s a civil not a criminal matter. Attached is a letter you can show to the police explaining the law. Remember that if you or your possessions are being threatened, then you must dial 999 if you are in danger.
To harass someone into leaving includes threats of violence, cutting off utilities, changing the locks, removing possessions, attending the property with groups of relatives or friends, smashing windows and such like.
Many of our members have reported awful stories of a social tenant illegally evicting their sub-tenants when the fraud has come to the attention of the social landlord.
If you are in this position, then you must tell the police that you are being unlawfully evicted or harassed into leaving.
Being unlawfully evicted by action or harassment commands high compensation rates from the courts and rightly so; there is nothing more harrowing then being turfed out of your home with no notice and your possessions withheld.
If you are unlawfully evicted, or you are harassed or threatened, your first port of call is the Police on 999.
After that you need to seek legal advice so you can consider obtaining an injunction to reinstate you into the property and sue for compensation or both.
Many Councils offer a service whereby they assist people in your position and take the legal action without charging you. You need to telephone the switchboard of the council that the property is situated in and ask to speak to the Tenancy Relations Officer.
If the Council doesn’t have such a service then call Shelter, their helpline is open every day of the year from 8am to 8pm week days and 9am to 5pm weekends. Shelter is a charity that campaigns and gives advice and assistance regarding housing.
If none of these services are available to you then you might be entitled to free advice from a Law Centre, Solicitor or CAB and you might be eligible for Legal Aid.
Also, check your credit card providers, car and home insurance policies, vehicle breakdown cover and work related benefits; sometimes these will give free legal assistance even if it’s not related to the service they provide, eg, the AA might advise on tenancy issues, not just vehicle related problems.