Unlawful Evictions – Remedies For Tenants
At Hodge Jones and Allen we are seeing more and more enquiries from people who have been unlawfully evicted from their private tenancies. In our blog posted on 8 December 2022, we explained what constituted an unlawful or illegal eviction. Unfortunately it seems that as the cost of living crisis goes on, more and more landlords are seeking to circumvent the legal route in order to get tenants out quickly so they can sell their properties or avoid increasing rent arrears.
This is simply not lawful and it is important to note that there are many things that you as a tenant could do about this.
Remedies for threats of unlawful eviction
If the landlord is suggesting to you that they intend to evict you from the property unlawfully or are taking action to try and force you to go (eg stopping services), they are acting illegally. Under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 it is an offence to:
a. unlawfully deprive the occupier of their premises;
b. carry out any acts calculated to interfere with peaceful enjoyment of the property which cause the occupier to give up residence;
c. carry out acts likely to interfere with peaceful enjoyment of the property which they know may cause the occupier to give up residence.
Therefore it is an offence to threaten or attempt to force unlawful eviction and the landlord could be subject to a fine or imprisonment.
Further, it is possible for a tenant to seek an injunction through the civil courts to prevent the landlord behaving in this way.
Such behaviour could also amount to harassment under the Prevention from Harassment Act 1997 which could also lead to criminal proceedings or a civil injunction against a landlord.
Remedies after unlawful eviction has taken place
Return to the property
In such cases, if a tenant wishes to, it is possible to seek an injunction to force the landlord to let you back into the property. Any such application must be made quickly as if a new tenant has been installed in the property then their rights to be protected from eviction will mean it is not possible to force the landlord to let you back in.
Often a warning letter from a solicitor can be sufficient to get a landlord to allow a tenant back in without the need for an injunction, especially when they are reminded that their behaviour also amounts to a criminal offence.
A tenant will also be entitled to compensation for an unlawful eviction. The damages that may be awarded are as follows:
- General damages – this is compensation in respect of the distress and inconvenience suffered by the tenant. This will be higher where a tenant has been made homeless as a result of the eviction and will vary depending on the level of distress caused.
- Aggravated damages – these can be awarded where the distress and inconvenience suffered has been greater as a result of the way in which the landlord behaved.
- Exemplary damages – this is compensation awarded where the landlord’s behaviour has been particularly unpleasant or egregious.
- Special damages – this is compensation for specific financial loss eg lost or damaged belongings, cost of having to seek emergency accommodation etc.
Compensation claims can be brought up to 6 years after the unlawful eviction took place.
Where an applicant is financially eligible, Legal Aid is available to seek injunctions against landlords and to seek compensation. It is particularly important to note that legal aid is available to bring compensation only claims for damages claims arising from unlawful evictions. This means that if you were unlawfully evicted and suffered damage and distress but do not wish to return to the property or cannot, you may still be able to bring a claim for compensation.
Therefore if your landlord is trying to unlawfully evict you or has already done so, there are remedies open to you and we would urge you to seek legal advice as soon as possible.