The fastest way to get illegally evicted tenants back in

by | Jul 7, 2020 | Safer Renting

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People often ask me on training courses, “What’s the quickest way of getting an illegally evicted tenant back into their home?”

The answer is the TROs best friend “section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977”.

S6, for short, is a part of the legislation that makes it a criminal offence for a person to use force to enter a property, as it says in subsection 1:-

“Subject to the following provisions of this section, any person who, without lawful authority, uses or threatens violence for the purpose of securing entry into any premises for himself or for any other person is guilty of an offence, provided that—

(a) there is someone present on those premises at the time who is opposed to the entry which the violence is intended to secure; and

(b) the person using or threatening the violence knows that that is the case.”.

All very clear. It’s a criminal offence to use or threaten violence to enter a property but then below s (1) (a) we have Section 6 (1A) which states:-

Subsection (1) above does not apply to a person who is a displaced residential occupier or a protected intending occupier of the premises in question or who is acting on behalf of such an occupier; and if the accused adduces sufficient evidence that he was, or was acting on behalf of, such an occupier he shall be presumed to be, or to be acting on behalf of, such an occupier unless the contrary is proved by the prosecution”

By “Displaced residential occupier” they mean someone who has been illegally evicted, so in short, if a person with a lawful right of occupancy has been evicted without due process, they or anyone acting on their behalf, can break back in.

Safer Renting has an account with Richard, our locksmith to do just this sort of work. It’s a very common occurrence and an equally common resolution.

When I was TRO for Lewisham Council in South London we even had our own breaking and entering kit, in the form of a metal suitcase with foam cutaways, housing crowbar, hammer, screwdrivers and spare locks.

Many TROs across the land also have their own similar toolbox, although over the years ours sadly fell into misuse along with the effectiveness of my knees and the proliferation of UPVC doors, making a firm shoulder and a Dr Marten boot largely redundant.

I confess we are quite cautious about the use of s6 but on consideration, perhaps too cautious..

I have always been mindful of this line from subsection (1) (a) (Bear in mind subsection (1) (a) is not the same as (1A), details like this are important) :-

provided that—there is someone present on those premises at the time who is opposed to the entry which the violence is intended to secure”

So I have always been at pains to ensure that there was nobody inside the premises who could object but despite participating in an unknown number of s6 actions down the years, I have recently been revising my interpretation on a literal re-reading of the Act.

Subsection (1) (a), as mentioned there, refers to the fact that the use of force would be an offence if there was someone in the property objecting but subsection (1A) below it  clearly states:-

Subsection (1) above does not apply”, it doesn’t say “Subsection (1) above does not apply, apart from subsection (1) (a)”, which is the subsection referring to persons objecting.

Which suggests to me that if you are using force to re-secure accommodation for a displaced residential occupier, it doesn’t matter if there is someone inside objecting to the force being used because subsection (1) is redundant in illegal evictions.

So maybe I’ve always been too cautious after all.

Mind you, having said that, if there was someone inside objecting, your attempts to re-secure the accommodation could easily end up in a breach of the peace or even a fight and I’m acutely aware that Mrs Richard wouldn’t be too happy about him going home with a black eye and if my interpretation is not right, then the displaced occupier, or anyone acting on their behalf might be committing a criminal offence.

On this basis alone it’s always best to make sure the decks are clear before beginning.

Time is also an issue. If the tenant says they just popped down the shops, or to Barnard Castle to have their eyes tested and when they got back the locks had been changed, then there is a good chance that the property hasn’t yet been re-let but, as happens sometimes, a renter tells you they have been illegally evicted a month ago, you’d be advised to go carefully and do a fair bit of checking first, even if just for pragmatic purposes.

My preferred technique is to just call the landlord and ask if its been re-let.( call me old fashioned)

If they say “No” then Richard is on speed dial.

Check and double check, then act swiftly.

  By Ben Reeve-Lewis

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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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