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Practical steps to deal with illegal eviction and harassment

This content applies to England

Practical steps that occupiers experiencing harassment or illegal eviction can take.

Actions for occupiers

There are certain things that occupiers can do which may make it easier to tackle harassment or illegal eviction. These include:

  • reporting the events to the local authority's tenancy relations officer (TRO) or an advice centre
  • keeping a diary, notes and photographs detailing all events that take place. Evidence will be important if it is necessary to go to court
  • reporting any harassment, violence, or threats to the police in case police evidence is needed later
  • asking the landlord to put all communications in writing and keeping copies
  • having somebody else with them to give support and act as a witness whenever they have dealings with their landlord or landlord's agent
  • getting together with other occupiers by joining or setting up an association.

Occupiers could also consider writing to the landlord saying that if the harassment continues, they may be forced to take legal action to:

  • prevent further harassment, and/or
  • get reinstated at the property, and/or
  • claim damages for occupation at another address.

Occupiers could do this themselves or could report events to an advice centre, solicitor or tenancy relations officer (see the section below on tenancy relations officers for details) and ask them to contact the landlord on their behalf. Copies of all correspondence to or from the landlord should be kept.

Self-help remedy for illegal evictions: forcing re-entry

In some situations it may be possible for an illegally evicted occupier to regain possession by forcing a re-entry (eg by breaking a window and changing locks) if s/he feels it is safe to do so. However, if there is someone inside the property who opposes the entry, s/he may be committing an offence under the Criminal Law Act 1977 unless s/he can show that s/he is a displaced residential occupier. See the page on Eviction without a court order for details of who is a displaced residential occupier.

If an evicted occupier decides to try to regain occupation in this way, it may be advisable for her/him to have a tenancy relations officer and/or the police in attendance, so as to provide assistance in case of a confrontation with the landlord. However, if an occupier uses this remedy s/he must be aware of the risk of committing the offence of criminal damage.[1]

Assistance from the local authority

If an occupier is threatened with homelessness (see the Defining homelessess section), is in priority need (see the section on priority need for details) and did not become threatened with homelessness intentionally (see the section on Intentional homelessness for details), the local authority has a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that accommodation does not cease to be available.[2] This could include a tenancy relations officer (or other officer) negotiating with a landlord to reinstate or refrain from harassing a tenant. See the section below on tenancy relations officers for more information.

To help occupiers whose supply of gas, water and/or electricity has been disconnected or who have been threatened with disconnection, local authority environmental health departments can arrange for the supply to be reconnected or intervene to prevent disconnection. The local authority can do this even if no harassment or illegal eviction has taken place, where money for bills is clearly included in the rent and the landlord has failed to pay them.[3]

Tenancy relations officers (TROs)

Many local authorities employ tenancy relations officers (TROs) to deal with cases of harassment and illegal eviction and to prosecute landlords where necessary (see the section on Legal remedies for information on local authorities' powers to prosecute). There is no legal requirement for local authorities to have a TRO service; sometimes staff from the environmental health department, legal department or the housing department take the role of tenancy relations officers.

A TRO may be able to stop the harassment or persuade the landlord to reinstate an occupier at an early stage by explaining the law to the landlord either by telephone, letter, or visit. TROs may also 'caution' the landlord, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, that s/he may be committing an offence and may be prosecuted. Some local authorities operate an out-of-hours TRO service.

The TRO may try to settle the dispute between the landlord and the occupier without any prosecution. Where it is clear that an offence has been committed and the occupier wants a prosecution, the TRO can prosecute on behalf of the local authority.

The Association of Tenancy Relations Officers (ATRO) provides useful Guidance for TROs on its website.

[1] s.1 Criminal Damage Act 1971.

[2] s.184(1) Housing Act 1996.

[3] s.33 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

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