The case of Jansons v Latvia, where the police’s failure to intervene in an illegal eviction was found to be a breach of the person’s Human Rights.
Published March 2023
The police and illegal eviction
Many advisers will have spoken to clients who were told by the police that they cannot intervene in an illegal eviction as it is a ‘civil matter’. Some tenants even face situations where the police do not act neutrally and actively assist the landlord to evict the tenant.
Illegal eviction is a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. While prosecutions for illegal eviction are normally carried out by the local authority, the police can and should take action if a landlord appears to be committing an offence.
In the case of Jansons v Latvia (Application no 1434/14), the European Court of Human Rights found the police’s failure to ensure a tenant was not evicted from his accommodation was a breach of his rights under Article 8 of the Convention. This opens up the possibility of occupiers taking similar action in the UK if the police have facilitated an illegal eviction or failed to intervene.
In August 2009, Mr Jansons concluded an agreement on the ‘use of premises’ in respect of a residential apartment in Riga, Latvia. The agreement was extended several times with the last contract stating it would expire on 1 July 2011. The building was sold to a new owner in April 2011.
Mr Jansons continued to reside in the property after the expiry of the agreement. He was offered a new four-month tenancy by the landlord but refused to sign because it did not offer him a right of extension. On 25 May 2012 the landlord sent Mr Jansons a letter requesting that he leave the premises by 25 June 2012. Mr Jansons remained in occupation after that date.
First attempt at eviction
On 8 November 2012 the representatives of the landlord, with the help of armed private security guards, forced themselves past the communal outside door into the hallway. Mr Jansons locked his door and phoned the state police.
When the police attended, they told Mr Jansons they believed it was a private matter and left. Mr Jansons then called the municipal police. They left after explaining to the landlord's representatives that an eviction could only be carried out with a court order.
Complaint to the police
On 9 November 2012 Mr Jansons left the apartment to log a formal complaint against the landlord at the police station. During his absence the representatives of the landlord changed the lock on the outside door. Mr Jansons was denied access to his belongings and the police refused to intervene despite persistent requests from Mr Jansons over the next few days and weeks.
Eviction by bailiffs
On 12 December 2012 a sworn bailiff attended the apartment to enforce a possession order the landlord had obtained against Mr Jansons’ former landlord. The bailiff forced open the door into the apartment. Mr Jansons informed the bailiff he had been living at the property. The bailiff informed Mr Jansons he was lawfully enforcing a court order and refused to let him in. Mr Jansons called the state and municipal police but they again refused to intervene.
Criminal and civil proceedings against the landlord
Criminal proceedings were brought against the landlord and the bailiffs on the basis of Mr Jansons previous complaints to the police. These proceedings were discontinued because the police concluded that Mr Jansons was not a tenant. The text of the agreement stated it concerned ‘the use of premises