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Almost 50% more people facing illegal eviction in the last year

The number of people turning to Citizens Advice for help with illegal evictions in privately rented homes has risen by almost half over the last year.

New figures from the national charity show 2,087 people asked for help after being threatened with illegal eviction in the 12 months up to March 2016. This is a 47% rise, up from 1,415 the previous year.

Citizens Advice heard from people whose landlords tried to evict them for missing a single rent payment, changed the locks without warning, and in some cases seized their belongings.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence. To evict tenants legally, a private landlord will usually have to serve them notice, then get a possession order followed by a bailiff’s warrant from a court.

A new database of landlords who have broken the law will be available to councils in England from October next year, and has been welcomed by Citizens Advice.

As part of its ‘Settled and safe’ campaign the charity is calling for the database to be made available to tenants so they can avoid bad landlords.

The Renters’ Rights Bill, which passed Second Reading in the House of Lords on 10 June, would give people in England the right to see if their landlord is on the database.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Landlords who break the law shouldn’t be able to hide.

“It’s a crime to throw people out of their homes without a court order, but more and more people are coming to Citizens Advice with this problem.

“The new database is a positive step which will help councils in England keep track of landlords who’ve broken the law. But unless tenants can check who’s on it, it will be continue to be hard for them to know which landlords to avoid. It’s crucial tenants are given access to this list.”

The Welsh Government is introducing its own licensing and registration system along with a database which will allow tenants to check online whether their property is registered and has a landlord with a valid licence.

Citizens Advice is offering advice to tenants in England facing illegal eviction:

  • Seek help from a professional adviser as soon as possible. You can call Adviceline on 03444 111 444, visit citizensadvice.org.uk or contact your local Citizens Advice.
  • Most tenants have the right to stay in a property until their contract ends, unless their landlord goes through a series of legal procedures to evict them. This can take several months and in some case you might be able to apply to have the procedures suspended. Seek advice to find out what your rights are, and don’t leave the property without an eviction order from the county court.
  • Lodgers have fewer rights than other tenants. If you live with your landlord they won’t have to go to court to evict you, but they must still give you a reasonable period of notice, which will depend on your circumstances.
  • Your landlord may have committed a criminal offence if they try to evict you without going through the legal procedures. Ask your local council for help with this. You might also want to speak to a solicitor if you are thinking about making a claim for compensation.
  • Call the police immediately if your landlord threatens or harasses you.

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