Illegal evictions and harassment are set to become more expensive for landlords who get caught, as councils will be able to fine them up to �30,000 as an alternative to prosecution under the Renters Reform Bill.
Lawyer Sam Kharabanda Groom (main picture) at Cornerstone Barristers believes this should give local housing authorities a more efficient means of enforcement.
'In the context of other parts of the Bill, seeking to abolish assured shorthold tenancies and fixed term assured tenancies, the implication is that the tightening of opportunities for landlords to obtain possession could cause a rise in unlawful evictions and harassment by landlords seeking a shortcut,'� adds Kharabanda Groom.
'It appears that these penalties could be imposed in addition to any rent repayment order secured by a tenant in respect of unlawful eviction, meaning that a landlord who has committed an offence could be on the hook for two fines, one punitive and one compensatory, as long as criminal proceedings have not been pursued.'�
Councils must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed. However, no penalty can be imposed if someone has already been convicted of the same conduct, if criminal proceedings are still ongoing or if the person has been found not guilty of an offence in respect of the same conduct.
Tenants can currently pursue a claim for damages against rogue landlords through the civil courts at the same time as a criminal prosecution in a magistrates court.
Illegal evictions and harassment are increasing, according to Safer Renting. Figures compiled by the charity from sources including Citizens Advice, Shelter, and local authorities show there were more than 8,000 instances of illegal eviction or harassment in 2022, an increase on almost 7,800 cases in 2021 and 6,900 cases in 2020.