Protection from Eviction

Published on 2015-07-16

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it a criminal offence to harass or unlawfully evict a residential tenant. Penalties for a breach are severe. The Housing Act 1988 extends protection to residential occupiers such as licensees. Tenants and occupiers can take civil proceedings to obtain damages and seek injunctions against landlords or their agents.

Unlawful Eviction

Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, it is an offence to unlawfully evict a residential occupier i.e. to prevent or try to prevent a tenant from occupying premises by, for example, changing the locks.

Harassment

Harassment covers interference with the peace or comfort of residential occupiers and withdrawal of services (e.g. gas) reasonably needed for occupation when done with the intention of causing the tenant to leave or stop them using part of the premises. There may be times when a landlord’s actions cause stress to a tenant but are not classed as harassment e.g. inconvenience when carrying out work.

Penalties

Anyone committing an offence under the Act can be fined and/ or sent to prison.

Legitimately Securing Possession

A landlord can repossess a property when the tenant surrenders the tenancy at the end of a term or part way through a fixed term, or when the landlord gains a court order granting possession. If the tenant does not move out in the timescale given by the court, the landlord is not entitled to make the tenant leave. They need to go back to court and arrange for bailiffs to lawfully evict the tenant.

Excluded Tenancies and Licences

A court order is not always needed to evict someone, for example, where the occupation is a temporary measure such as a holiday accommodation.

Serving Notice to Quit

A notice to quit (also known as a notice of eviction) – in writing – can be given by a landlord or a tenant but cannot be used to end a fixed term tenancy.

Notice periods under the Housing Act 1988 (as amended) require two months’ notice in writing. Non-Housing Act 1988 tenancies require the notice period under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 to apply as a minimum notice period. The Act states that the notice period must be at least four weeks and be in writing – this would apply if the tenant was paying their rent weekly. If the rent paid monthly, the landlord would have to give at least one month’s notice.

Mortgage Default by Landlords

If a landlord fails to pay their mortgage, the mortgagee may obtain possession of the property. They would normally want to sell the property with vacant possession, so would want any tenancy to be ended. The situation varies on whether the property being repossessed is an authorised tenancy (where the landlord obtained consent to let or has a buy-to-let mortgage) and the mortgage can simply take over the existing tenancy) or an unauthorised tenancy (where the mortgagee is unaware of the letting) which requires the mortgagee to give the tenant notice of the repossession hearing. It also allows the tenant to request a stay of possession proceedings for a period not exceeding two months once the mortgagee obtains a court order. In many cases, the mortgagee and tenant agree a leave date without a court order.

Categories: Residential Lettings Legal Aspects of Lettings