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Eviction – know your rights!
If you’re living in rented accommodation, do you know under what circumstances you can be evicted? If you don’t, this article should help explain all. You wouldn’t want to end up losing your home, just because you don’t know the rules. And why is this important? Because in the first three months of this year, more than 11,000 families were evicted from their homes. According to an article in the Guardian, this is a rise of more than 51% on the figure from five years ago. The reason? It’s not that hard to work out – rising rents, static wages and benefit cuts. These three combined have added up to a lot of people being left unable to pay their rent.
So, what are your rights if your landlord wants to evict you?
First and most important – your landlord cannot evict you without going to court first. So, if you receive anything other than what’s called a Form N54 Notice of Eviction from the court bailiffs, it’s not legal and cannot be enforced. It is not the same as a letter from your landlord telling you that they plan to try and have you evicted – it will actually detail the date and time the bailiffs will arrive at your property. This is the same regardless of whether you are a social or private tenant.
Now, depending on whether you rent privately or through a housing association or something similar, you’ll get different protection.
Council and Housing Association Tenants
If you rent from your local council or housing association, you’ll have one of the following kinds of tenancies:
assured shorthold tenancies
If you’re not sure which kind of tenancy you have, check the front of your contract, the details should be on it. There are really only three reasons a council would want to evict you, these are:
anti-social behaviour, rent arrears and fraudulent applications
And, before it gets to the stage of eviction, the council will have to do everything they can to try to resolve the situation. Eviction really is the last resort.
If you are a private tenant you can still be evicted, but the process is a little different. Most private tenants are on assured shorthold tenancy agreements. Again, if you’re not sure, just check your contract it will state what kind of tenancy it is. If a landlord wanted to evict you, they’d have two ways to do it – section 21 eviction notice or a possession order. And, they’d need to have grounds, which is fancy legal speak for a good reason to do so, they can’t just evict you on a whim, because they feel like it. You’d have to have done something pretty awful, like significantly damaging the property, anti-social behaviour or serious rent arrears, for your landlord to be successful with an eviction request.
If you’re served with a ‘Section 21’ eviction notice, it’ll give you two weeks to find a new home. The landlord can’t just issue this themselves, they must apply to the court to get the ‘Section 21’ notice. If the judge decided to grant the eviction notice, you’ll be given a date by which you need to be out of the property. If you’re not, they can apply for a bailiff to evict you. When he arrives he needs to show you a valid warrant from the court before he can proceed.
If your landlord decides he wants to evict you using a possession order, he must do so in writing on a special form that states clearly the grounds for the eviction. It must also give you at least two weeks, and at most, two months to move out. However, if the eviction is for anti-social behaviour the rules are a little different, you could end up homeless immediately.
What’s detailed above are the only ways a landlord can get you out of a property legally. If they try any other method they could be guilty of harassment and attempting illegal eviction. If you find yourself in this situation, seek legal help immediately from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or council office.
For further, independent advice please visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Shelter.