What follows only applies if you are living in a property, and the owner threatens to evict you or evicts you.
The rules that apply to travellers in mobile homes are different.
The word “owner” here refers to a person who had or has the right to allow you to live in a property. He/she may be a freeholder or have a lower interest such as a lease, or a tenancy. In most cases it will mean your landlord.
The owner must take steps laid down by law before he/she can evict you. The steps vary according to the type of occupation. Your rights (and what you can do) depend on what kind of occupier you are. It can also be argued, in some cases, that evicting people from their home without good reason and/or without a proper trial is a breach of human rights.
Squatters – almost zero protection
If you moved into and have stayed in your home without permission of the owner you will be a “trespasser”. The owner can use reasonable force to evict you. No notice is required by law. The only restriction on the owner is that it is a crime (under the Criminal Law Act 1977) for anyone (including the owner) without authority to use or threaten violence (including breaking a lock or a window) to secure entry if, to their knowledge, someone is in the premises opposed to the entry. If you are at home when the owner breaks in the owner will have committed an offence.
If you leave the premises empty, even for a short period, the owner can retake possession and lock you out. If the owner gets in without using violence (e.g. if you let him/her in) he/she is entitled to use force to get you out.
Miscellaneous occupiers – notice must be given but no Court order needed
Some occupiers must leave either at the end of an agreed period or after being given “reasonable” notice (usually four weeks). The notice need not be written. These are: people who share accommodation with the owner or with the owner’s family; people who originally entered as squatters and were given temporary rights of occupation; people in holiday lets; people who do not pay for their accommodation; asylum seekers in accommodation provided by the government; hostels provided by public or social landlords.
If you are in one of these categories and your right to occupy has come to an end you will have no more rights than a squatter. If the owner of where you live is a public authority or social landlord, it is likely, unless something has happened that makes it impossible for you to continue your stay, to have a policy of not evicting without a Court order and you may have a little more time.
If the owner threatens to evict you before your right to occupy has ended you should take legal advice immediately. It may well be possible to prevent an early eviction.
If you are actually evicted before your right to occupy has ended you should also take advice.
Others – a Court order must be obtained
In most cases, before evicting a tenant, the owner must obtain an order from the Court and, if the tenant remains after the date given by the Court, the owner must get the Court bailiffs to carry out the eviction. It is a crime (for which an owner can go to prison) to evict a tenant from premises where he/she is living without using the Court procedure. This is so even if the tenant is in rent arrears or has broken other conditions of the tenancy.
Threats of Eviction – What can you do?
As soon as the owner indicates that he/she wants you out of the premises take advice without delay. The sooner you know what can be done the easier it is for you to cope with the situation. You will need to know whether or not you can stay.
Phone our advice line. We should be able to tell you the effect of any notice and what is likely to happen next. In some cases, if the owner is a local council or social landlord, or if you have been living in your home since before 1997, it may be possible to prevent the eviction altogether. In these cases, if you wait for the eviction to happen it will usually be too late to do anything about it.
If the owner threatens to put you out without first going to Court you can:
If you are a squatter it may help if you places notices on entrances stating that anyone who seeks to use violence to enter will be committing an offence under the Criminal Law Act 1977.
Tell him/her that it is illegal and a criminal offence. If you are a squatter the offence will be under section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. If you are a tenant you will be warning him that it is also an offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Both offences can involve a 6 month prison sentence.
Phone the local Council and speak to a tenancy relations officer. They should be able to help negotiate with your landlord. The contact number on the Isle of Wight is 01983 823040.
Consider informing the police. Note that the police do not always know about tenants’ rights. They are likely to take notice if you are able to show them a tenancy agreement that still has time to run, or a notice that has not yet expired or even a court summons where the date for the hearing has not yet come. If you do not have these documents to show that you are entitled to stay the police may well take the attitude that you have no rights. You need to be ready to tell them that the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 makes it a criminal offence for the owner to evict you without first obtaining a court order. If you are a squatter you will need to be pointing out to them that the owner is threatening an offence under the Criminal Law Act 1977 and explaining that you are seeking their help to prevent a breach of the peace.
Seek legal advice by phoning our advice line.
Take steps to safeguard your most important papers and possessions.
At all costs avoid a violent conflict in which someone might be injured.
In some cases, if action is taken quickly, it is possible to obtain a Court order forbidding an eviction.
Actual Eviction – What can you do?
In theory, if you have been illegally evicted, you are entitled to re-enter (you have to make good any damage caused – e.g. to locks or doors). Do NOT attempt re-entry:
if there is anyone in the premises who is opposed to your entry (you would be committing an offence); or
where there is a possibility of injury or violence occurring as a result of your re-entry; or
if you are not sure that the eviction was illegal.
Once you have been evicted, if you want to use the law to regain possession, you must act quickly. If the owner lets the premises to someone else it is very unlikely that you can get back in. The legal procedure is relatively complex (you need to be unusually confident and capable to follow it without using a lawyer) and involves applying to the County Court for an “injunction” ordering the owner to let you back in. For more information on this you should phone our advice line without delay.
You will need to arrange for somewhere to stay for a few nights until your situation is clearer.
You should take with you your most important papers and emergency clothing.