I’m worried about eviction
Losing your home is a scary prospect. Your landlord may own the place, but they can’t force you out (otherwise known as evicting you) just because they feel like it.
Can they make me leave?
Landlords usually have to give written notice – unless they live in the property too. The amount of notice depends on your tenancy.
If you rent a council property on a trial or probationary basis you can be evicted easily if you miss rent payments and if the eviction process begins during your trial period.
If the trial period ends and your tenancy becomes secure, it’s much harder to evict you. Similar rules apply to housing association tenants.
My flatmates want me out
Housemates are usually joint tenants with equal rights to live in the property, meaning you can’t throw each other out. If, however, you haven’t been paying your rent then the landlord can ask you to leave. How this affects everyone in the house will depend on the tenancy agreement – it could lead to everyone being booted out.
However, if your landlord is successful in getting just you out any changes to the tenancy, such as replacing one person, need written agreement from everyone, including the landlord.
Even if you’re sick of your hellish housemates, don’t move out without getting proper advice from an organisation like Shelter or CAB. If you don’t legally end the tenancy, you could still be liable for rent and bills after you move out.
My landlord has given me notice
Don’t move out before the notice period ends unless you have somewhere else to live, or your local authority could say you’re intentionally homeless.
You might be able to stay legally after the notice period ends, although it’s unwise if you want references for future tenancy applications. Pushing your luck like this also has further repercussions: your landlord can go to court for a legal possession order and send bailiffs to remove you from the property.
Reasons for eviction
Your landlord may have legal grounds to evict you during your tenancy. Sometimes courts have no choice but to agree.
Courts usually have to order eviction if:
- You’re more than eight weeks behind on rent, or two months if you pay monthly.
- Your landlord’s mortgage lender is repossessing the property and you were warned this could happen.
- The property is being redeveloped.
In other situations, the court may have the power to decide. They should give you the chance to tell your side of the story. Some courts have ‘duty-desk’ schemes which provide free legal advice.
What happens next?
The court will send bailiffs to evict you. You should get written notice first.
Usually you’ll get either two months or two weeks’ notice, depending on the reason why you’re being evicted. If it’s due to serious anti-social behaviour, you could be asked to leave immediately.
You may be able to delay the eviction order for up to six weeks if you’re suffering major hardship.
When is eviction illegal?
No court order: You can only be evicted without a court order in these situations:
- You live in the same building as your landlord and share living space with them or a member of their family
- You moved in as a squatter
- You don’t pay rent
- You live in a hostel or other temporary accommodation
Otherwise, it’s illegal without the proper paperwork.
Discrimination: Landlords can’t discriminate against tenants on the basis of race, gender, disability, sexuality or religion. That includes trying to evict you on those grounds.
Harassment: It’s illegal to try to force you out of your home by withholding services like electricity, refusing to carry out repairs, making threats, changing the locks or harassing you.
Physical force: Only bailiffs acting for the county court can try to make you leave the property, and they can’t use violence or unreasonable force. Call the police if anyone else tries to make you leave.
After illegal eviction
You may have the right to re-enter your home even if the locks have been changed. Get advice from your local council first, or you could be charged with criminal damage. The court may also order your landlord to let you back in.
You have the right to get all your stuff back, even if you owe your landlord money.
By Anne Wollenberg
Updated on 25-Sep-2012