16 Nov 2020

Zero-tolerance to illegal evictions

The Isle of Wight Council has welcomed new government measures designed to protect renters during the national coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions.

Safeguards, including the pause on evictions, means evictions will not be enforced until 11 January 2021 at the earliest, supporting individuals and families who have found themselves in financial difficulty through no fault of their own.

The only exceptions to this will be the most egregious cases where:

• the court has already made an order because of anti-social behaviour;

• there are extreme rent arrears that arose before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, six month notice periods remain in place until at least the end of March 2021 — except for most serious cases — with time to find alternative support or accommodation.

With these protections in force, no tenant in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

Jamie Brenchley, the council's service manager for housing needs and homelessness, said the authority took a zero tolerance approach to illegal evictions and had this warning for landlords who flouted the rules: "we will take action where necessary."

He said: "Over the past few months, and in direct response to the Covid crisis, the government has made changes to the laws that relate to the eviction process.

"An initial ban was relaxed and replaced by an extended notice period of six months for so-called no fault evictions.

"There have been reports nationally of an increase in harassment and illegal evictions with Citizens Advice reporting a 95 per cent increase in people asking for help with illegal evictions between the end of March and the end of July, compared with the same period last year.

"The Isle of Wight Council will not tolerate illegal evictions and we will take appropriate and proportionate action in the event this is identified."

Only court-appointed bailiffs can legally evict people from their homes. Landlords must first give notice and then obtain a possession order from a court. Anyone else using force or changing locks is committing a criminal offence.

If you are being asked to leave your home without the proper legal process being followed you can and should stay in your home, especially if you have nowhere else to stay.

Don't sign any documents from the landlord which contain a date for you to move out of your home. Get legal advice before giving up your home voluntarily, even if eviction seems unavoidable.

It's illegal for your landlord to:

• harass you;

• lock you out of your home, even temporarily;

• make you leave without notice or a court order.

Anybody who has been served an eviction notice, or is expecting one, or struggling to pay their rent should seek expert advice as soon as possible.

Councillor Clare Mosdell, Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and housing needs, said: "If you find yourself becoming a victim of illegal eviction make sure you make contact with us and we will investigate this.

"We have been through a tough year with the pandemic and facing difficult times ahead this winter, so it is vital that any private tenants who are concerned that they could be evicted from their homes act now to get help rather than do nothing."

If you are a tenant and you feel you have been evicted from your property illegally, contact the council's housing team on (01983) 823040 or email housing@iow.gov.uk

If you are a landlord and are uncertain of your legal responsibilities when seeking to end a tenancy, seek legal advice and check the details set out on GOV.UK.

Further advice is available from Citizens Advice Isle of Wight or Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.

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If you are being asked to leave your home without the proper legal process being followed you can and should stay in your home
If you are being asked to leave your home without the proper legal process being followed you can and should stay in your home
Factfile
  • Don't sign any documents from the landlord which contain a date for you to move out of your home. Get legal advice before giving up your home voluntarily, even if eviction seems unavoidable.
  • Anybody who has been served an eviction notice, or is expecting one, or struggling to pay their rent should seek expert advice as soon as possible.
 
Isle of Wight, UK