It’s never nice to have to evict a tenant. It’s also about to become harder. When the Renters Reform Bill passes into law later in 2023, it will end Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. Instead, landlords will have to rely on evictions under a revised Section 8. Given this backdrop, it’s highly likely that we’re going to see an increase in illegal eviction over the coming years.
Illegal eviction is surprising widespread. It’s estimated that 8,000 tenants are illegally evicted in England every year. Very few landlords are prosecuted. This is likely to be due to a number of factors. Firstly, many tenants are unaware of their legal rights. Secondly, some landlords don’t understand the rules concerning eviction. Thirdly, given the low number of prosecutions, some landlords clearly feel they can get away with it.
Illegal eviction and the police
In London, there has been concern that some Met Police officers aren’t fully aware of the law concerning evictions. This has led some to side with the landlord in cases of illegal eviction.
The Guardian reports that, to combat this, Scotland Yard, the Mayor of London and various renters groups have drawn up new guidance. Some of the things it contains are:
- Clarification of Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. This states it is a criminal offence to use violence to secure entry to a premises where someone present opposes this.
- Signs of an illegal eviction. These include a landlord changing locks, cutting off utilities or using threatening behaviour.
- A duty to warn landlords they will be committing an offence if they proceed and arrest them if necessary.
- A duty to make sure the landlord lets the tenant back into the home.
In most cases, an eviction is illegal unless court-appointed bailiffs carry it out. The guidance therefore tells police that, if they’ve been called out to an eviction, the likelihood is that it’s illegal.
What constitutes an illegal eviction?
Before evicting any tenant, landlords must follow the rules for Section 8 or (for the time being) Section 21 evictions.
This allows them to get a court order and appoint bailiffs to carry out the eviction. Only bailiffs can evict private tenants, students in halls of residence, or council or housing association tenants.
Landlords can, however, evict the following types of tenants themselves:
- People in hostels owned by a council or housing association
- People in emergency accommodation provided by the council
That said, these landlords must not harass a tenant either. In all cases it is a criminal offence for a landlord to use or threaten violence to evict someone.
What will happen next?
What happens next will depend on how the police act on the new guidance. If it results in the police having a clearer understanding of the law, then it’s highly likely they’ll arrest more landlords who are acting illegally. If it is effective, similar guidance could be adopted by other police forces.
When you need to evict, do it properly
A better approach is to try and prevent a situation where you need to evict a tenant. Always undertake thorough referencing checks before choosing a tenant. Things may still go wrong, but you can minimise risk with products such as rent guarantee and legal expenses insurance. That way you won’t be significantly out of pocket, even during a protracted eviction process.
If you’d like help making your buy-to-let portfolio more profitable, talk to one of our specialist accountants today.
About Jon Pryse-Jones
Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.
An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”
Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board. “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says. He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.