Illegal eviction and harassment
Private landlords sometimes put great pressure on tenants to leave their properties, or they may even use physical force. However, most residential occupiers have legal rights to protect them against harassment and illegal eviction, the law says that they can continue to stay there.
In an emergency, such as if you have been locked out, contact us by one of the methods listed below. There is usually an officer available who can give you advice and speak to your landlord to try to resolve the situation. If they are not available to help immediately or if violence has been threatened, you should also call the police.
In Merthyr we have very few reported cases of harassment and they are usually resolved promptly and the tenant allowed to return to their home.
What is Illegal Eviction?
Illegal eviction is where a person unlawfully deprives or attempts to deprive a residential occupier (whether tenant or licensee) of his/her occupation of all or part of their premises without going through correct legal procedures. Anyone convicted of harassment or illegal eviction could face a prison sentence of up to two years and/or an unlimited fine.
Normally a landlord who wants the tenant to move out of his or her property must serve a Notice to Quit on the tenant giving them a certain length of time to leave. If agreement on a date for departure cannot be reached, then the landlord must get a Court Order in order to legally recover their property.
It does not matter if the tenant is in breach of their contract e.g. they owe rent, or won't allow the landlord in to do repairs, or the fixed term has come to an end.
Acts of illegal evictions include:
- Changing the locks when you are out.
- Being physically thrown out of all or part of your home.
- Physically stopping you from entering your home.
What is Harassment?
The legal definition of harassment is when a landlord or landlord's agent:
Carries out acts which are likely to interfere with the peace and comfort of an occupier.
Persistently withdraws or withholds necessary services required by the occupier (necessary services include water, gas and electricity, or lifts in a block of flats).
It is an offence for a landlord to carry out the above acts if it causes the occupier to leave or stop them from exercising their rights to the property.
Harassment can take many forms, for example:
- Disconnection of essential services, such as electricity, gas or water, or failing to pay the bills so that these services are cut off.
- Removal of or interference with occupier's belongings.
- Preventing access to bathroom, kitchen or garden to which the occupier has shared or exclusive right.
- Entering an occupier's home without consent.
- Making threats to persuade an occupier to leave.
- Visiting the occupier's home regularly without warning, especially late at night.
- Sending builders round without notice.
- Allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that it is dangerous for the occupants to live in.
- Beginning disruptive repair works and not finishing them.
- Harassing an occupier because of gender, race or sexuality.
- Stopping the occupier from having guests.
- Intentionally moving in other tenants who cause a nuisance to the occupant.
- Forcing an occupier to sign agreements which take away their legal rights.
What You Can Do
If your landlord (or agent) is harassing you, you can get help from the Council's Environmental Protection and Enforcement Team, or take your landlord to Court. Harassment does not have to be obvious or intentional before you can do something about it.
If you feel you are being harassed by your landlord, We would advise you to:
- Ask your landlord to stop the behaviour.
- Keep a diary, notes and photographs of what happens.
- Go to an advice centre, the police, the Council or a solicitor for help.
- Ask your landlord to put all communication with you in writing.
- Write to him/her, saying that if the harassment continues you will take legal action.
- Have someone with you as a witness whenever you see your landlord.
- Get together with other tenants who have the same landlord.