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‘Avoid a rise in criminal evictions,’ councils warned

Government’s 90-day evictions ban welcomed by renters’ groups but legal rights must be backed up with prevention efforts.
27 March 2020 , Katie Coyne

Renters’ unions have urged police and local authorities to support people to stay in their homes, amid fear of a rise in illegal evictions.

The Government acted earlier in the week to freeze Section 21 (no-fault eviction) notices for three months. After concern that notices already served could go ahead, the Government halted all ongoing housing possession action yesterday evening so evictions could no longer take place.

However, there is concern that some landlords could take matters into their own hands and already there is some anecdotal evidence that this is happening. Groups representing renters are keen to get the message out that this behaviour is criminal and the police and local authorities must act to protect renters.

Acorn rent union national organizer Anny Cullum said: “We are concerned obviously. The Government increased the ban on legal evictions for 90 days, which is good as we were very worried landlords would try to get them in early before they were made illegal. But that doesn’t stop some landlords from harassing tenants so they leave.”

Cullum said Acorn had been in touch with bailiff companies who have told them they are not operating, as the work involves close personal contact.

However, Cullum added: “Shelter has said there were 20,000 evictions going through the system, which have now been stopped. But there’s bound to be some landlords who will try to get renters out without going through the proper channels.”

Generation Rent director Dan Wilson Craw said: “It’s one issue we are expecting to hear more about. It’s criminal offence and there’s advice out there. It’s just ensuring understanding, and that people have the support they need from the authorities to remain in their homes.”

Barrister David Armstrong of Mallard Consultancy and Derwent Chambers said: “The police have the power to arrest any person obstructing lawful re-entry. Unfortunately, most tenants are summarily removed without due process and are then understandably reluctant to try to return to the premises. This can leave them in an awkward situation as they could be considered by the local authority as still having a tenancy.

“These are cases where legal rights do little to mend a situation and emphasis has to be put on prevention. Local authorities should liaise with their local police to make them aware of potential problems and the rights of tenants. Further, local authority officers could pro-actively engage with landlords.

“A number of officers have begun to use CPW / CPN to ‘mark a line in the sand’ to landlords of concern as a means to ward off potential harassment or evictions. These notices have the advantage of concentrating landlords’ minds but also of taking out uncertainty in cases of dispute in relation to harassment.”

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