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Advice for Tenants

Local Authorities in England and Wales have powers under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 to prosecute landlords, or indeed any person, for the offences of unlawful eviction and harassment.

The law protects 'residential occupiers' from both of these offences. The majority of people who are renting their homes are residential occupiers. The principal exclusion is the occupier who lives in the same property as their landlord and who also shares living space (such as a kitchen, bathroom or living room) with the landlord. People in this category would be considered excluded licensees. Excluded licensees have little protection from eviction - an example would be a lodger. A lodger is only entitled to 'reasonable' notice and the notice does not even have to be in writing.

Since 15 January 1989 most new tenancies in the private sector (including Housing Association tenancies) have been either Assured or Assured Shorthold. If you rent from a private landlord you probably have an Assured Shorthold tenancy. A landlord can ask you to leave an Assured Shorthold tenancy without giving you any reasons, but they must give you valid notice first.


I have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy - what notice am I entitled to?

If you have a fixed term contract, your landlord doesn't generally have an automatic right to possession of the property until the fixed term has ended. If he wants possession at the end of the fixed term, he must say so in writing. You must be given at least two months notice of this.

If you had a fixed term contract, but it has expired, you will have a statutory periodic tenancy. Your landlord must give two months notice in writing that he requires possession of the property if he wants you to leave.

There is no prescribed form for either type of notice, but they must both be in writing. If the tenancy is a periodic one, the date specified in the notice after which possession is required, must be the last day of a rental period. The notice must also state that possession is required by virtue of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

After either notice has expired, if you have not agreed to leave the property voluntarily, your landlord can apply for a possession order from the County Court in order to evict you. If the landlord is awarded a possession order and you still do not leave the property, he can ask court bailiffs to enforce the possession order.

If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) which requires licensing, but which is not licensed, your landlord cannot give you a Section 21 notice. There is more information on which HMOs need licensing in Swansea here, www.swansea.gov.uk/hmol2011 or you can contact the HMO Team on (01792) 635600.


I moved into my property before 15 January 1989 - does this make a difference?

Yes. Most tenants who let a property as a separate dwelling (i.e. the tenant doesn't live in the same building as the landlord) before this date will have a Regulated tenancy. Regulated tenants have greater security of tenure than Assured Shorthold tenants. They, or their landlord, also have the right to ask the Rent Officer to set a fair rent. Landlords do not have an automatic right to evict Regulated tenants. If they want to end the tenancy they must first serve Notice to Quit, then ask the County Court to award possession on a specified ground.  For it to be legally valid Notice to Quit must contain certain information about a tenant's rights.


My landlord has changed the locks to my property - what should I do?

Unlawful eviction is both a civil and a criminal offence. If you are evicted unlawfully outside office hours you should contact the Police. If you need emergency accommodation, you should contact the Council on (01792) 636000. You will be able to speak to a duty officer who will try and assist you. If you are evicted unlawfully during working hours contact the Council on (01792) 635600. The Department will be able to advise you of your rights and contact your landlord to advise him he is breaking the law. If you wish to be reinstated to the property, the Department will offer you advice and assistance to get back into your home.  It may be necessary to obtain the services of a solicitor to obtain an injunction ordering your landlord to readmit you.  It can take several days to arrange this.  If the evidence is strong enough, the Council will consider taking a criminal prosecution against your landlord. You may also be able to take civil action for damages against your landlord.


What about harassment?

Harassment is a very broad term and can include any acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier. A typical example is where a landlord interferes with the electricity or water supplies. 


How can I stop the harassment?

If your electricity, gas or water supplies have been turned off, the Council can serve legal notices on your landlord making him re-instate the disconnected service. Other types of harassment can be more difficult to prove. If the evidence is strong enough, the Council will consider taking a criminal prosecution against the person harassing you. If the harassment involves threats of violence you should contact the Police. As with unlawful eviction, an injunction can be an effective way of preventing harassment.





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