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Our guide to: Eviction

November 06 2013
Make sure you know your rights, says housing solicitor Janette Canlin


As a housing solicitor whose work is mostly funded by legal aid, I find myself advising people in very difficult and stressful situations, often about homelessness and evictions.

A common question is about their rights where a person living in a property belonging to someone else informs me that their landlord has said they will have to go. Typically the landlord says something along the lines of he wants them out by the end of the week, often due to a disagreement between the two of them, for example, because there are rent arrears, or the tenant has reported disrepair.

So if this happens to you, what are your rights?

There is no straightforward answer, because when a person lives somewhere belonging to another, there are many different types of agreement between them. The law affects them differently depending on what the agreement is.

In some situations the occupier is an ‘excluded occupier’, which includes some people living in hostels, people living with their family, those living somewhere where they do not have to pay rent, or in accommodation they share with the landlord.

In others, the occupier is protected by legislation. Council and Housing Association tenants are protected, as are most people rented privately rented accommodation.

Why is that important? Because those who are not excluded occupiers have legal protection when it comes to eviction. Excluded occupiers find they have very limited rights, just the right to be given ‘reasonable notice’ that the landlord is going to evict them.

So how do you know if you are an 'non-excluded occupier'? You probably live in a separate property to the landlord and to his family and you pay rent. You are probably an Assured Shorthold Tenant, whether or not you have ever had a written tenancy agreement. That is also the case even if, when you moved in. the tenancy agreement was for a fixed period (usually six or 12 months) which has now run out.

As for all non excluded occupiers you have at least basic rights, which are to be served with a written Notice, worded correctly, including an expiry date, after which the landlord can issue a claim in the County Court, for an Order for Possession.

If the landlord does this you will receive a copy of the Court papers and given the chance to send a Defence to Court to say why you should not have to leave. For some types of claims the Court will send you a date for a hearing, for others the Court can consider whether or not you have to leave just by considering the paperwork sent to Court.

If the Court grants the Order for Possession you will be given a date by which you must leave, after which the landlord must apply to Court bailiffs for an eviction date and time. The landlord cannot lawfully evict you himself and he must instruct the Court bailiffs.

At any point from the time you get the Notice you may want to consider legal advice. The procedure is not simple and there may be something you can do.

If he does not follow all these steps he may find himself in Court facing your claim for compensation and/or an order to force him to allow you to return to your home. An unlawful eviction is also a criminal offence, and he could end up facing a fine and/or prison. Accordingly his following the procedure correctly is very important to him as well as to you.

For more information or advice:

(The above column should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice.)