In the past week, we received a report that a resident had been asked to vacate his home whilst maintenance work was undertaken. When he returned the locks had been changed and his belongings removed.

The Housing Standards Team undertook a prompt investigation which concluded that the tenancy had not been ended lawfully. A locksmith was commissioned to change the locks and the tenant was re-instated, as were his belongings.

If you are being asked to leave your home without a legal process being fulfilled you can and should stay in your home, especially if you have nowhere else to stay. Don't sign any documents from the landlord which contain a date for you to leave by. Get legal advice before giving up your home voluntarily, even if eviction seems unavoidable.

It's illegal for your landlord to:

  • harass you
  • lock you out of your home, even temporarily
  • make you leave without notice or a court order

Councillor Darren Cowell, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We are now determining if further action should be taken in this case. The Landlord could face a criminal prosecution with the possibility of a custodial sentence. They may also be required to pay back up to 12 months’ rent via any Rent Repayment Order sought and a Banning Order preventing them from letting property for a fixed time. Landlords really need to take note of this and if they are not sure of the guidance around eviction at the moment to check with us or look online.”

Councillor Christine Carter, Cabinet Member for Corporate and Community Services, said: “Homelessness and the threat of homelessness is a significant problem throughout the UK and in the Bay. Over the past seven months, and in direct response to the COVID crisis, the government has made changes to the laws that relate to the eviction process. An initial ban was relaxed and replaced by an extended notice period of six months for so-called no fault evictions.

“The courts started to hear possession orders again on the 21 September 2020. Over this time period, there have been reports nationally of an increase in harassment and illegal evictions with Citizens Advice reporting a 95% increase in people asking for help with illegal evictions between the end of March and end of July, compared with the same period last year.

“If you find yourself becoming a victim of illegal eviction make sure you make contact with us and we will investigate this.”

Only court-appointed bailiffs can legally evict people from their homes. Landlords must first give notice and then obtain a possession order from a court. Anyone else using force or changing locks is committing a criminal offence.

If you are a tenant and you feel you have been evicted from your property illegally contact the Community Safety Department on 01803 208025.

If you are a landlord and are uncertain of your legal responsibilities when seeking to end a tenancy, seek legal advice and check the details set out on GOV.UK.

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