Do police lack knowledge when it comes to illegal eviction?

Do police lack knowledge when it comes to illegal eviction?

12:09 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago 24

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This Property118 investigation highlights how anti-social behaviour has caused problems for both tenants and landlords.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, housing campaigners voiced their concerns that the police don’t understand the law protecting tenants from harassment and illegal eviction.

The housing charity Shelter said there is a big disparity between the number of cases being reported and the number of people convicted.

A Citizens Advice survey from 2018-2021 revealed the organisation received 15,955 phone calls reporting cases of harassment and illegal eviction.

Over the same period, the Ministry of Justice revealed there were only 101 convictions for illegal eviction.

‘Illegal eviction is a civil matter’

Shelter gives advice to tenants on what to expect from the police if they are at risk of being illegally evicted.

The charity says the police can:

  • Warn the landlord that they may be about to commit a criminal offence
  • Arrest the landlord if a criminal offence is committed
  • Mediate if they’re present at a confrontation
  • Contact your local council to report events.

However, the police are often reluctant to attend and even if they do, will say that a clear illegal eviction is a civil matter, ignoring the protections given by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Harassment is defined in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 as:

  • Acts likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of those living in the property, or
  • Persistent withdrawal of services that are reasonably required for the occupation of the premises.

Actions that might constitute harassment within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 include:

  • Harassment because of sex, race, disability, gender reassignment, or sexuality.
  • Violence, threats or intimidation.
  • Abusive or insulting words or behaviour.

The National Police Chiefs Council said in a statement on the Today Programme: “Most private tenancy disputes are civil in nature but the police should be contacted if there are criminal actions.”

‘Landlords must have confidence in being able to deal with criminal and anti-social tenants’

On social media, Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said: “Good to be on the BBC, commenting on illegal evictions, to be clear, they are unacceptable.

“Tenants should not live in fear and landlords must follow the numerous rules and regulations governing the sector.

“We have consistently high tenant satisfaction in the PRS but those landlords who evade their responsibilities and use thuggery towards tenants have no place in our sector and should feel the full force of the law.”

He added: “At the same time, landlords must have confidence in being able to deal with criminal and anti-social tenants and in the court system working properly.

“It was an opportunity to remind viewers that these outlying criminal and rogue groups are the minority, but both must be protected.”

84% of landlords received no help in tackling anti-social behaviour from their local authority

Polling by the NRLA has found that 50% of landlords have at some point attempted to repossess a property because of a tenant’s anti-social or criminal behaviour.

Of this group, 84% say they had received no help in tackling it from their local authority and 75% had no assistance from the police in dealing with anti-social tenants.

Rodney Townson, from landlord association group ihowz, said: “We share the concerns of tenant groups regarding the lack of knowledge displayed by the police in dealing with disputes and other issues involving tenants.

“We support calls for the police to take a more active role, whether to protect tenants from illegal eviction and harassment or to take action to support landlords, tenants and their neighbours dealing with antisocial behaviour.”

‘Zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour’

The government recently unveiled plans to tackle anti-social behaviour by giving landlords and housing associations the power to evict anti-social tenants.

The government says there will be a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to all forms of anti-social behaviour and give the police and local authorities the tools they need to tackle the problem.

In the government’s anti-social behaviour action plan they state: “We will seek to halve the delay between a private landlord serving notice for anti-social behaviour and eviction and broaden the disruptive and harmful activities that can lead to eviction.

“We will ensure landlords can act more quickly than ever before to evict anti-social tenants.

“Through our reforms for renters, we will make grounds for possession – the legal reasons a landlord can evict a tenant – faster and far easier to prove.”

Commenting on the announcement Mr Beadle said: “Anti-social tenants blight the lives of fellow renters and their neighbours.

“Plans to end ‘no explanation’ repossessions risk making it harder to tackle such behaviour.”

He added: “Whilst we will study the detail of the Government’s plans carefully, we welcome its commitment to strengthen the ability of landlords to evict unruly tenants.

“The law must be on the side of the victims of anti-social behaviour, and we are glad that the Government agrees.”

‘Responsible landlords are sick and tired of a failure to root out the minority of criminal landlords’

A survey by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, revealed one in three landlords have ended a tenancy because their tenant engaged in antisocial behaviour.

It appears that responsible landlords are sick and tired of a failure to root out the minority of criminal landlords who bring the sector into disrepute.

Many landlords in the PRS feel the police simply don’t understand the situation when it comes to resolving tenant issues.

We would like to hear your stories about this. Have you experienced trouble with anti-social tenants? Let Property118 know and post your comments below.


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Comments

Paul Essex

12:53 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

This does ignore the fact that illegal evictions are now much more cost effective than following the proper process - the fines issued are tiny compared to typical losses incurred, this is the madness that needs fixing rather than continue landlord bashing.

Seething Landlord

13:21 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Essex at 31/03/2023 - 12:53
Cost effectiveness is no justification for illegal activity.

Are you suggesting that it is better to risk a fine and/or imprisonment than to follow due process or that the penalties should be increased to provide a greater deterrent?

Nobody should lose sight of the fact that the immediate penalty is just the start of the consequences of a criminal conviction.

Rod

13:31 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

The timing of this article could not be more apt.

Last night, a friend asked me if I could help out a priest who had recently been illegally evicted by his landlord and handyman.

The priest and other tenants had previously been harassed by the handyman, who had also assaulted the one of the tenants, following complaints about the condition of the property.
Last week, following a threatening note telling them to leave, they returned home to find the locks changed and are now sofa surfing as they look for a new home.

I was told that their deposit had not been protected, (and they had probably not been given other required documents). In addition, the flat is subject to licencing but not licenced. The police, lawyers and the council had all been notified.

The landlord and handyman risk fines and criminal convictions and being banned from managing property.

At the very least, the landlord faces paying
- 1 to 3 month's rent for not protecting the deposit
- a rent repayment order for up to 12 month's rent
- an inspection of the property and up to £30,000 for any breaches of licencing issues
(I'm sure my friends Des and Phil at Landlord Defence could add to the list)

The landlord inherited the property from his parents but has clearly failed to gain any education on a landlord's responsibilities before renting the property.

It is a mystery why a small minority of criminal or amateur landlords believe it is acceptable to act this way. No wonder many licencing schemes mandate that landlords are accredited.

Most people starting up in less regulated industries would spend a few hundred pounds on education when they are investing £000's and would follow up by maintaining their knowledge and development.

The friendly team at iHowz are available to answer members questions and provide regulatory updates.

iHowz also offer membership and accreditation at a very reasonable price.

https://ihowz.uk/join/#membership

Des Taylor & Phil Turtle, Landlord Licensing & Defence

15:38 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

In reply to Rod from iHowz.

The Rent Repayment Order is probably the biggest threat to the landlord and both Illegal eviction and harassment are automatic triggers for entitlement. There are also a plethora of No-win-no-fee merchants standing ready to take up these cases on behalf of tenants and indeed some councils employ officers solely to assist tenants make RRO claims.

Landlords can defend against RRO claims https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/rent-repayment-order/ and the amount claimed (which can be up to 12 months rent) can often be reduced however it will never be zero if the LL has committed harrasment or illegal eviction.

Other major treats to the landlord come if the property isn't licensed but should have been. Council treat this as paramount to murder (no, seriously) and will throw the book at the LL. If its an HMO, then in addition to the £15,000+ they will fine you for failure to licence. they will usually "find" at least £50,000 worth of fineable items under the HMO management regulations https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/housing-act-section-234-regulation-5-financial-penalty/

By far and away the best thing to do is
1) get your property compliant https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/hhsrs-risk-assessment/
2) get it licensed if it needs to be https://landlordsdefence.co.uk/does-my-property-need-an-hmo-licence/
3) do NOTHING that could be interpreted as harassment.
4) be aware that there are only TWO legal ways to regain possession
4a) tenant gives notice and/or surrender
4b) by an order of the court
Anything else IS an illegal evistion. End of.

It's eye wateringly expensive to get on the wrong side of all this still and as @Rod said:
"Most people starting up in less regulated industries would spend a few hundred pounds on education when they are investing [hundreds of] £000's and would follow up by maintaining their knowledge and development.

Being a LL is no longer an amateur activity. Be professional or be fined out of existence but the council's [unbelievably evil] housing police.

DPT

16:20 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

The lack of Police knowledge about housing law cuts both ways. There are occasions where it is perfectly legal for a landlord to exclude a tenant by changing the locks whilst they're out of the property, but the Police commonly force the landlord to re-admit the person even though their tenancy has ended.

Seething Landlord

17:12 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 31/03/2023 - 16:20In what circumstances do you believe that the landlord is entitled to change the locks while the tenant is out of the property?

Unless I have missed something this sounds to me like dangerous nonsense.

Rod

17:50 PM, 31st March 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 31/03/2023 - 16:20
To paraphrase Phil

THERE ARE ONLY 2 WAYS TO LEGALLY END AN AST

1 TENANT SURRENDERS THE TENANCY
- Tenant can give notice or surrender the keys. Either way get them to acknowledge in writing and if there is a deposit advise them when it will be returned (max 10 days from agreeing amount)

2 COURT ORDERS END OF TENANCY
- If tenant refuses to vacate, you will be back in court to get a warrant for eviction

That's it, unless it's not an AST - excluded tenancy, licence to occupy, or company let.

Would you like to expand on
"There are occasions where it is perfectly legal for a landlord to exclude a tenant by changing the locks whilst they're out of the property, . . . "
and explain what these are?

Rennie

11:40 AM, 1st April 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by David at 31/03/2023 - 16:20
The police have no authority to mediate or decide who is right. They are there purely to prevent a breach of the peace.

Reluctant Landlord

12:36 PM, 1st April 2023, About A year ago

nothing to do with the police. IF they attend a fisticuff situation between LL and T they wont care a hoot of the reason ONLY if there is violence etc.

Housing is a civil matter and decided in the courts.

The police dont understand 'illegal evictions' because they dont need to!

Seething Landlord

12:49 PM, 1st April 2023, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by DSR at 01/04/2023 - 12:36
Illegal eviction is a criminal offence that can and should result in prosecution. The police therefore need to understand it and act accordingly.

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