In the realm of property management, landlords often encounter challenging situations with tenants, particularly when rent payments cease or disruptive behaviour arises. Woodstock Legal Services, our esteemed legal partners, recently handled a case involving the successful eviction of a non-paying tenant through a lawful possession order. However, the journey didn’t conclude there, as the ex-tenant sought to regain access to the property.
In this blog, we will delve into the the eviction process, shed light on the severe consequences of unlawful evictions, and emphasise the utmost importance of following the correct legal procedures. While the temptation to take matters into one’s own hands may arise, this case study serves as a stark reminder of the grave repercussions that can ensue if prescribed protocols are not diligently adhered to.
The case that Woodstock Legal Services recently handled involved securing a lawful possession order against a tenant who had fallen behind on rent payments. The eviction proceeded with the assistance of bailiffs, and the tenant was legally removed from the property. Subsequently, the ex-tenant attempted to regain access through an application to the court.
Fortunately, the eviction had been conducted lawfully, and the judge promptly dismissed the ex-tenant’s application, upholding the validity of the possession order. Consequently, the tenant was not allowed back into the property.
While such successful outcomes are reassuring, there are rare circumstances where a warrant of possession can be challenged. In certain instances, the court may permit re-entry to the property if it can be shown that the warrant was obtained through fraudulent means or executed oppressively or abusively. However, in the case handled by Woodstock Legal Services, the ex-tenant failed to provide evidence supporting any of these grounds, leading to the dismissal of their application.
The three essential steps a landlord must follow when a tenant stops paying rent and eviction becomes necessary include serving a possession notice, initiating court proceedings for a possession order, and eventually instructing county court bailiffs or high court enforcement officers to carry out the eviction.
Unlawful eviction is a grave offense with severe consequences. A tenant who is illegally evicted can seek an Injunction to regain access to the property, claim damages as compensation for losses incurred, and even initiate criminal prosecution against the landlord.
The consequences of unlawfully evicting a tenant have been highlighted in a recent case brought by Sedgemoor District Council. In this case, a Somerset landlord was prosecuted for illegally evicting the tenant, when they was found to have changed the locks without a court order and disposed of the tenant’s belongings in the process. Taunton Magistrates sentenced the landlord to a six-month prison sentence, suspended for twelve months. The tenant was also awarded damages of £3,000.
In another case Regency (UK) Ltd v (1)Hussein Ali Hadi Albu-Swalin (2) Heartland Property Ltd (2019) the tenant was awarded £19,000 for damages, which included £150 per night for 60 days (the equivalent to the notice period under Section 21).
It is understandable that landlords may be frustrated, particularly when they are not receiving any rent from the tenant and they are looking at lengthy delays to obtain possession through the courts, but it is vital that the correct process is followed.
This highlights the importance for landlords and letting agents to seek expert legal advice and guidance when navigating the eviction process. Woodstock Legal Services, as the trusted partner in property law, offers their expertise to landlords and agents, ensuring compliance with the law and preventing the unfortunate fate of landlords who have faced serious consequences due to unlawful evictions.
For landlords and lettings agents seeking advice on the correct eviction process, contact Woodstock Legal Services’ expert team by visiting www.woodstocklegalservices.co.uk or calling 0330 088 5792.
By Cara Wiltshire