Some tenants are harassed or illegally evicted by their landlords or landlords' agents. These are serious criminal offences.
Harassment can take many forms, for instance, tampering with the electricity, gas or water supply, interfering with your possessions or entering your home without your permission. If you are harassed or think you have been evicted illegally (without the correct length of notice or a court order) you should get legal advice.
You can also contact the person at the council,sometimes called the tenancy relations officer, who investigates these offences. The council has the power to prosecute landlords.
Landlords have to follow a set of strict legal guidelines in order to evict tenants, however there are different rules over notice period and procedures depending on what tenancy you have and type of housing you live in:
- Assured shorthold tenants - You should be given two months' notice to leave. Your landlord has to prove the reason why they want you evict you if this falls within the fixed term of your tenancy.
- Assured tenant; - You must be given two months' or 14 days' notice, depending on the severity of the reason behind why you are being evicted.
- Regulated tenants - You can only be evicted if the fixed term on your tenancy has run out and entered the statutory stage. Your landlord then has to get a court order to evict you.
- Excluded occupiers (if you live with your landlord) - In this case your notice can be verbal and should be equal to the timescale in which you pay your rent.
- Hostels or supported housing - The housing association doesn't have to come up with a court order, but normally you will be given at least four weeks' notice.
- Temporary accommodation (e.g. if you are homeless) - If you pay your rent to the housing association you will have similar rights as an assured shorthold tenant. If you pay rent to the council you can only be evicted with a court order.
- If you live in your place of work - Your right to live in your home will normally end when you are made redundant or resign.
It is deemed a criminal offence if your landlord:
- Changes the locks while you are out;
- Physically throws you out;
- Threatens or forces you to leave;
- Bars you from certain parts of your home.
What if I'm experiencing discrimination?
- The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful for landlords to discriminate on racial grounds against people applying for rented accommodation. If you have a resident landlord, this does not apply.
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1976 makes it unlawful for landlords to discriminate against people applying for accommodation on grounds of sex.
- If you are facing unlawful racial or sexual discrimination by a landlord you can take action and be awarded damages. You can get advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
- There is no legislation which covers discrimination against lesbians and gay men when applying for housing. Local or national lesbian and gay organisations may be able to offer advice and support if you have experienced discrimination.
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 makes it unlawful for landlords or property managers to treat disabled people unfavourably in certain circumstances. Seek help from an advice centre. For further advice contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or housing advice centre.
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