Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences. The maximum penalty a landlord can receive for these offences in a Crown Court is an unlimited fine and two years’ imprisonment.
What is harassment?
Landlord harassment towards a tenant can take many forms and can include:
- making threats to get you to leave
- physical violence towards you
- persistently cutting off or restricting essential services such as gas, electricity or water
- interfering with your post
- frequent unnecessary visits by the landlord or representatives to the property, particularly if this happens late at night or without warning
- entering your room or property without your permission
- preventing access to the property or part of the property
- allowing the property to get into such a bad state of repair that it is dangerous to live in
- discrimination because of gender, race, disability or sexuality
These acts and any other acts likely to put pressure on you to leave their accommodation could be harassment.
What is illegal eviction?
Illegal eviction is the attempted or actual eviction without following the correct legal process, common examples include:
- changing the locks while you are out
- intimidating you, threatening you or forcing you to leave
- physically throwing you out
If your landlord stops you from getting into certain parts of your home (for example by locking the toilet door or blocking access to a part of the building that you have a right to occupy) this also counts as illegal eviction.
What is the correct legal procedure for eviction?
The correct procedure a landlord must follow to require a tenant to leave will vary, depending on the type of tenancy agreement that is in place.
Most people living in rented accommodation are protected by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This means that a tenant cannot be made to leave their home without the proper legal process being followed.
In almost all cases a landlord must first give the correct notice to the tenant to leave (usually in writing and with two months’ notice if the tenant has abided by the tenancy agreement). If the tenant decides not to leave at the end of this period the landlord must get a court order for possession.
Be aware that as long as the correct procedure has been followed a court order will be granted to the landlord and the tenant may be liable for costs. If an eviction is genuine a bailiff should be present. If necessary, bailiffs authorised by a court warrant can use reasonable force to evict.
To force someone out of their home by any means other than with a court order could be an illegal eviction. This is both a criminal offence and a breach of civil law.
The Shelter Cymru website provides information on the proper procedure that should be followed for an eviction.
When would a section 21 notice be invalid?
A section 21 notice will not be legally valid if you paid a deposit at the start of the tenancy and:
- it has not been protected in one of the government-approved deposit protection schemes
- you have not been provided with required information about the protection scheme used.
A section 21 notice will also not be legally valid if your landlord or agent is not registered or licensed under the Rent Smart Wales scheme.
If you live in a property which is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) a section 21 notice will only be valid if issued whilst your landlord holds the appropriate licence with us.
What can happen if a landlord is breaking the law?
The law states that the landlord, their agent or any other person could have action taken against them for acts of harassment or illegal eviction, if it can be shown that they had an intent or had reasonable cause to believe that their actions were likely to cause an occupier to leave all or part of the property. They could be prosecuted if the act is carried out intentionally or recklessly.
What to do if you think your landlord is harassing you or threatening to illegally evict you
Try to keep a record of any incidents – this evidence may be needed should any case go to court.
You should call the police if your landlord is trying to forcibly remove you.
The Shelter Cymru website provides a short guide on practical steps you can take if you are being harassed or threatened with eviction (including what to keep record of).
Report it to us
You can report harassment or illegal eviction using our online forms. We will try to resolve the dispute and consider if a prosecution is appropriate.
You can also contact us by emailing HealthandHousing@wrexham.gov.uk (or by calling 01978 292040 if the situation is urgent). We may be able to provide advice or tell you where you can get advice on ending a tenancy.
Contact Rent Smart Wales
Licensed private landlords have to comply with a Code of Practice. If they are not doing so then Rent Smart Wales can investigate.
You should also report any serious or violent incidents to the police. Harassment and illegal eviction are criminal offences and your landlord could be prosecuted.
Further help and advice
If you have been illegally evicted and want to return to your home, you should contact a solicitor who can act on your behalf to gain access.