As a landlord, it can be very frustrating seeing your property being occupied by a tenant who is paying little or no rent. Often the property is mortgaged so you have to keep up your responsibilities to your mortgage company despite not receiving the rent intended to cover the payments.
You could be forgiven therefore for thinking that you ought to “turf” out your non-paying tenants but a word of warning – do so at your peril.
Unless the tenant voluntarily leaves, then the only way to secure a vacant property is to obtain an Order for Possession and even then tenants can only be forced to leave by an authorised County Court Bailiff or High Court Enforcement Officer (formerly the High Court Sheriff).
In two very recent cases, the failure to follow the Court procedure has caused two landlords to face Court themselves and narrowly avoid prison.
Mr Solakovic had asked his tenants to leave without serving the appropriate Notice. Birmingham City Council wrote to the agent who was managing the property at the time outlining the legal procedure to be followed to obtain possession. Although the agent served a new Notice giving the Tenant two months to leave, Mr Solakovic took the law into his own hands and changed the locks. When one of the tenants returned to the property, he discovered the locks had been changed and called the police. The landlord refused to let the family return but did allow one family member to enter and retrieve a few belongings and then crammed the rest into the garage.
Mr Mirsad Solakovic from Birmingham was fined £700.00 with £1,500.00 costs and a victim surcharge of £70.00 by Birmingham Magistrates Court after being found guilty of unlawfully evicting a family from a property of which he was a landlord. This was in contravention of Section 1(2) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
In the second case, Jacqueline Hanif attended the property with several family members entering forcibly against the wishes of the occupiers before evicting them from the property and bunging their possessions into black bags. This was due to a dispute with her estranged husband over the collection of rent. The tenant stayed with friends over the weekend before seeking assistance from Middlesbrough Council. The case was brought to court and the family were eventually let back into the house by the landlord after she sought legal advice on her actions.
Jacqueline Hanif pleaded guilty to the illegal eviction of tenants contrary to the Protection of Eviction Act. She was sentenced to a 12 month Community Order with 10 days of rehabilitation activities and 100 hours of unpaid work. In addition, she was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £60.00 and £400.00 towards the Council’s costs of bringing the case.
It is clear from these cases that acting outside of the law will not be tolerated and the Courts will punish landlords for breaching the Protection from Eviction Act if they do not follow the correct procedures.
If you would like any advice, contact our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004.