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Illegal tenant evictions on the increase

Subsequently many landlords struggling to receive rent payments are left with no alternative but to evict their tenants. But many should think again before undertaking a DIY eviction.

Graham Kinnear, MD at Landlord Assist, said: "Although many private landlords provide a good quality service to their tenants, there is a minority who believe that they are above the law and can evict tenants without taking the required steps.

"Landlords must ensure that they conduct tenant evictions within the confines of the law. The Protection from Eviction Act covers most tenancies and makes provisions that the landlord cannot evict tenants without a court order. The landlord is not permitted to make threats or inconvenience the tenant regardless of whether the rent is being paid."

Kinnear’s comments come following a recent report from housing agency Threshold, which revealed a huge rise in the number of tenants being illegally evicted from their homes by landlords.

In its latest report, the organisation said it had received reports of more than 1000 threatened or actual cases of illegal eviction this year, compared to 674 throughout all of 2008.

Kinnear said: "Whilst a landlord can instigate the proceedings themselves this is not recommended for the inexperienced. We have a team of over 200 advocates available to attend court hearings nationwide and in doing so we hugely reduce the stress and frustration that these situations can create."

Landlords should be aware that most local authorities have a department resourced to deal with issues of harassment and illegal eviction. Most work on the basis that a tenant is entitled to occupy their home in peace and comfort. If the landlord does something to interfere with this it could constitute harassment. Examples could include the following:

* Removing or restricting a tenants essential services such as gas, electricity and water;
* Entering the property without permission or prior notice;
* Refusing to allow the tenant to have visitors;
* Forcing the tenant to sign an agreement that reduces their legal rights.

Examples of illegal eviction can include the following:

* Changing the lock whilst the tenant is out;
* Using violence or threats to force the tenant to leave;
* Attempting to evict a tenant before the proper legal procedure has been followed.

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