Access Denied – How an Illegal Eviction Can Devastate a Life

by | Nov 9, 2020 | Safer Renting

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An Illegal Eviction can mean much more than being locked out of your property. It can leave you trapped in homelessness without access to assistance or any route to shelter.

Self-employed painter and decorator Charlie Kopeck moved from Lithuania to the UK in 2014. While making ends meet had always been tough, he tells me up until now he had always been able to find enough work to live and pay rent. Living conditions were not ideal. Charlie shared his room with a stranger, in a property that was severely overcrowded. But at least – he did have a roof over his head. Despite usually always being able to find work, Charlie says in recent months it has all dried up. Coronavirus has killed off demand for his services and as a result he has been left without an income.

With no income, Charlie was unable to pay his rent and fell behind. For the first time in his three years at the property, Charlie missed a rent payment. Immediately, the landlord began to threaten violence and demanded to be paid. After two weeks the landlord visited the property and violently evicted Charlie. The attack left him with concussion and broken ribs. The Police attended the incident and told Charlie that upon his release from hospital he was not to return to the property as this risked further violence.

On 12 October, Charlie was discharged from hospital, with no job and no home to return to. He was left with nothing. His landlord had sent him messages telling him that all his belongings had been thrown away, along with messages that included death threats if he were to return to the property. Concerned that he would be sleeping rough, he approached the council for assistance. He had hoped that as he was evicted illegally and homeless through no fault of his own, he would be provided with some help. The council informed him he was not eligible for assistance as he was unemployed and not in receipt of benefits. He was told to find a safe location and make himself known to Streetlink.

Streetlink is a charity funded service run by St Mungos. It helps to connect rough sleepers with services and temporary accommodation.

Charlie did just that. He found a doorway of a building and constructed a wall with rubbish from a nearby building site and alerted Streetlink to his whereabouts.

Four weeks later and despite numerous calls to Streetlink, Charlie is still camped out in the doorway behind the self-made wall of rubbish. He stays there with increasing concern for his health and safety as the colder nights begin to draw in. 

He has been told by the council that to be eligible for homelessness assistance he needs to either be in work or be in receipt of benefits. There is no work available for Charlie. Even if he were able to find work, he would not be able to do it: the injuries he sustained from his eviction have left him unable to carry out the physical work of painting and decorating.

His landlord has thrown away the tools with which he earnt his income. And without a passport – his landlord threw that away too, or sold it on the black market, where it’s a valuable commodity– Charlie is unable complete a Universal Credit application and so he has no access to benefits. For Charlie, there is no route out. He cannot access benefits, he cannot access work and therefore he cannot access homelessness assistance.

Not only has Charlie been deprived of any foundation with which to begin rebuilding his life, but he has also denied the opportunity to pursue compensation against his violent landlord.

Safer Renting referred Charlie to civil legal advice, a Government service that provides free legal advice and can refer individuals to legal aid solicitors. The purpose of the service is to ensure everyone can pursue a legal remedy for the harm they have suffered at the hands of others.

I made an application for civil legal advice on Charlie’s behalf. Charlie was then required to contact them to verify his account so that he could access the service.

The service claims to offer interpretation in 170 different languages.

Charlie doesn’t speak English, so the promise of interpretation was vital. But again, access was denied.

While civil legal aid did promise to offer language interpretation, the interpretation could only be offered after Charlie had verified his account. To verify his account, Charlie had to answer several questions (in English) confirming his personal details.

These included his national insurance number, previous address history and details of his case. Charlie’s level of English is not good enough to answer these questions without an interpreter. He made multiple attempts to verify his account.

i wrote Charlie a script. But even after preparing for the call, Charlie was unable to authorise his account and therefore was not able to access legal aid services. Despite the ridiculousness of his circumstance – that he would only be offered the interpretation service he required if he had sufficient English language skills –

Charlie was not shocked. He was becoming accustomed to the infuriating catch 22s with which he was met when he made any attempt to seek assistance.

Charlie’s experience reveals how an illegal eviction can devastate a life in a housing system that is without compassion. The realities of illegal eviction are that people find themselves jobless, injured and without documentation. When the housing system encounters these individuals, it shrugs it shoulders at them.

 John Luke Bolton

Safer Renting



About Cambridge House Safer Renting

The Cambridge House Safer Renting team present the ‘go-to’ blog on the world of the Shadow Private Rented Sector.

We monitor the world of rogue landlord and agent activity, publicise developments, circulate innovative ideas, keep readers abreast of changes in laws and regulations, raising awareness of criminal trends and scams, celebrate successful actions and interview people working in the field, connecting up anyone involved, from tenants and their advisers, to enforcement officers, lawyers and journalists.

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