In the heat of an eviction it is hard to keep your head, but taking the law into your own hands can be a costly mistake. In this month’s column, Alex Byard explains why...
A number of cases this year have served as a reminder to landlords that you cannot evict tenants unlawfully without repercussions.
In simple terms, a tenant can only be evicted if the rules set out in the Housing Act 1988 are followed. This includes serving a valid notice giving the appropriate warnings of what is to come, then obtaining a court order for possession should it be ignored. If this still doesn’t work, bailiffs must be instructed to attend and execute lawful possession of the property.
Back in May, a case was brought to the courts by a woman who was granted a six-month assured shorthold tenancy and later moved her husband and three daughters into the property. The landlord hadn’t protected the deposit and claimed their agreement didn’t permit the tenant to live there with her family, so he changed the locks and evicted the occupants.
The tenant and her family were given temporary accommodation by the council and were granted an injunction against the landlord. She brought a subsequent claim for trespass to land and goods, breach of quiet enjoyment of the property, unlawful eviction and failure to protect the deposit.
The landlord decided not to attend court and in his absence, the tenant was awarded in excess of £29,000 for trespass, special damages for lost belongings, return of the deposit, a penalty for not protecting it, aggravated damages and interest.
In December last year, a similar case saw a tenant awarded more than £31,000 for unlawful eviction, following a landlord’s inability to follow the letter of the law.
Whilst legal fees may seem costly, these examples prove it is money well spent if you need to remove a tenant. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, when faced with an eviction, professional advice is always recommended.
Alex Byard is a specialist in property litigation at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP. For more information, telephone (0114) 218 4000, visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk and www.landlorddisputes.co.uk or follow the firm on Twitter @te_propertylaw.