Busted: Landlord Found Guilty for Locking out Tenant and Evicting Overnight

A landlord has been given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of illegally evicting a tenant – locking him out whilst he was working a night shift.

The landlord, who has not been named, must pay £3,000 compensation to the tenant – plus £250 to Sedgemoor council in Somerset. The landlord was also found guilty of disposing all of the tenant’s belongings – many which were personal and irreplaceable. 

The tenant had returned home early in the morning after his night shift only to find himself without any possessions and completely homeless. 

This is an incredibly serious offence for a number of reasons: 

  • The tenant regularly paid his rent. 
  • The tenant understood he would get a month’s notice. This was in itself unlawful as the provisions of the Coronavirus Act lengthened the notice period to six months.
  • The landlord had been advised by the council’s housing team prior to the eviction  that he must abide by the law and, by his own admission, the landlord chose not to do so. 

During sentencing, the Chairman of the Bench stated the landlord received the benefit of an early guilty plea, coupled with the fact that he was of previous good character. However, this was a very serious offence, which resulted in this suspended sentence. 

Do landlords have the right to change locks?

If you’ve ever considered changing your locks, it’s important to be aware of potential mishaps that could lead to legal battles. 

Changing locks is a sensitive situation and one that could arise if a landlord-tenant relationship goes sour. But no, landlords do not actually have the right to change the locks if they are doing so in order to keep a tenant out of the property – that would be illegal. 

A landlord can of course change the locks legally, after they have followed all correct procedures and served their notice to a tenant, who would then be trespassing illegally if they refused to vacate the property. 

It’s vitally important that landlords follow all correct legal procedures in order to evict their tenant properly if that path is needed. This applies even if you’ve served your tenant with an eviction notice. 

There are two notices which a landlord can serve to kick-start the process of terminating a tenancy. The section 8 notice is a fault-based notice where there is a clear breach or fault on behalf of the tenant, due to which the landlord is choosing to end the tenancy. 

There is however a section 21 notice that you should be aware of. In this case, the landlord must give no reason for wanting to regain possession of the property. While most tenancies will end by mutual consent, there are instances where this doesn’t occur, and that’s when the section 21 notice comes in handy.

How To Avoid Landlord-Tenant Tensions? 

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