I recently read the shocking story about Mr Valentine-Brown who was murdered by his landlady, her partner and two accomplices when they decided they would take the eviction process into their own hands. Although an extreme case, this story serves to highlight just how quickly problems can escalate when emotions are running high and landlords take an unlawful route to eviction.
You would be amazed how many landlords I have spoken to over the years who do not understand why they cannot simply turn up and take back possession of their property when a tenant falls into arrears. There is often an attitude of “I’m the landlord, it’s my property, I can do what I want.” Wrong.
A good friend of mine is a police officer and she recently told me that there has been a marked increase in calls, across the London borough where she operates, relating to landlord and tenant disputes. However, these are civil matters and police will not intervene unless there is a breach of peace.
In a recent case, a tenant who had rented a property for five years, but suddenly fallen into two weeks rent arrears, returned to the property to find his landlord throwing his belonging out on the street with no warning or any prior discussion about terminating the tenancy.
It amazes me that in this day and age some landlords are still unaware of their legal responsibilities in letting out a property. Regardless of whether a tenant has fallen into arrears, no landlord has the right to unlawfully enter an occupied property and remove a tenant’s belongings or change the locks.
An illegal eviction can be punishable with a fine of up to £20,000 and possible jail time, too. If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they should never, under any circumstances, take matters into their own hands. Always wait for the judgement of the courts.
So, what should a landlord do?
MAKE CONTACT – If you have a reason to evict your tenant, such as rent arrears, always try to make contact first to see if you can reach a resolution. Sometimes tenants default through no fault of their own and communication can help to solve the problem before it is taken any further.
COMMUNICATION TRAIL – Always keep a record of communication between you and your tenant, and if you have a phone call to discuss any issues, such as late payments or anti-social behaviour, follow this up in writing via letter or email. This could be used as evidence at court.
AVOID ‘LANDLORD RAGE’ – Never be tempted to harass the tenant in an attempt to resolve the matter. The penalties for harassment are severe and can result in heavy fines, so always seek professional advice and stick to the correct procedures.
INSTRUCT LEGAL PROFESSIONALS – Landlords or letting agents can draw up and serve the notice themselves but if this is not something you have done before, it is advised to instruct legal professionals who specialise in eviction and who are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Even the slightest error in the details of the notice can cause a court to throw a case out, meaning the whole process would have to start again which is costly both in time and financially. If you are unsure about your rights, landlords can call Landlord Action’s free advice line for help on