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Tenants, know your rights: evictions on rise

One Hackney household spent three weeks sleeping in a park after being evicted. Pic: Jessica Mulley

Illegal evictions have doubled in a year according to Hackney Community Law Centre.

Nathaniel Mathews, a senior solicitor at HCLC said illegal convictions are an “emerging social problem” in the area.

He said: “We used to have five to six people approaching us regarding illegal evictions a year. Now we are looking at one or two a month. Being illegally evicted is one of the most stressful things that can happen to a person, and it is an offence which is rarely prosecuted.”

The charity said it had also seen examples of harassment and violence towards tenants including a case of a refugee who was evicted with only 24 hours notice and physically assaulted by an estate agent. By law, tenants must receive at least two weeks’ notice – and, in many cases, one month.

In another case members of a household, including a disabled person, were evicted illegally and spent 3 weeks sleeping in a park.

The law centre, which provides legal advice for free to local people, is now getting together with Hackney council to help tenants resist illegal evictions. It will hold a workshop to educate local residents and landlords on tenancy laws.

The workshop will aim to drill members of the public in their legal rights and show them how to fight illegal eviction.

Speakers will include representatives from the council and from homelessness charity Shelter, and both residents and landlords are encouraged to attend.

It will cover training on tenant law as well as discussing proposals to make it easier for residents to report rogue landlords to the council.

Mathews said: “While we already work with the council to promote  tenancy agreement models, more steps need to be taken.”

He pointed to a scheme successfully carried out in Newham where landlords need to be authorised by the local authority and face blacklisting if they do not adhere to rules.

While the circumstances vary from case to case, a grim financial climate has seen landlords growing desperate; when their funds fail, tenants are vulnerable.

Some evict ‘unwanted’ tenants like people receiving benefits, while others see opportunities to make more money in different arrangements, said Mathews.

The workshop will take place on Thursday 11.10.12 at Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street from 2-5pm. For more information, click here.

EVICTIONS: YOUR RIGHTS

In theory, eviction is highly regulated by the Housing Act 1988. If a landlord wants to kick you out, they must apply for a possession order from the courts and they must give you notice that they plan to do this.

A Section 21 notice allows landlords to take back their house at the end (and only at the end) of a fixed tenancy without giving a reason. Landlords use this when they want to move back into a house or develop it after a tenant has left. A Section 21 notice must be given two months in advance; for more information, see here.

A Section 8 notice can only be served on certain grounds, and each one needs a different term of notice:

  • If you haven’t paid your rent: two weeks’ notice
  • If your rent payments have been persistently late: two weeks’ notice
  • If you breach your contract: two weeks’ notice
  • If you damage property or mistreat furniture: two weeks’ notice
  • If you sign your agreement under false pretenses: two weeks’ notice
  • If you cause a nuisance to your neighbours: no notice
  • If you engage in “illegal or immoral purposes”: no notice

ALL OTHER GROUNDS require two months’ notice BY LAW – no matter what a badly-drafted tenancy agreement might say. Click here for a full list of grounds and notices.

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