Call to ban rogue landlords who illegally evict tenants
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is calling for a ban on landlords who evict tenants illegally as part of a five-point plan to strengthen the private rented sector.
A major new report from the charity considers advice data and case studies from across the Citizens Advice network on illegal evictions.
CAS is calling for:
- The Scottish Government to develop, monitor and evaluate more effective routes for redress for people affected by illegal eviction, such as retaining the new approach to civil damages.
- The introduction of mandatory training for landlords before being able to register.
- Harsher penalties for landlords who illegally evict, including temporary removal from the landlord register if applicable and/or fines if they continue to let out property without undertaking the above mandatory training and paying damages.
- Better data collection on illegal evictions, so hotspots for this type of activity can be identified and better enforced against.
- Local authorities review their homelessness procedures where people are at risk of or have been illegally evicted and develop a consistent approach so that people in this circumstance can access the assistance they require.
Analysis from across the CAB network suggests there was no notable decrease in demand for advice on harassment and illegal evictions during the pandemic despite the legal protections in place at the time.
Citizens Advice Scotland social justice spokesperson Aoife Deery said: “Good landlords are critical to developing a more robust, fair private rented sector, but bad landlords who engage in harassment or illegal eviction cast a shadow over the whole the sector, that is why mandatory training and tougher penalties like bans or fines for rogue landlords should be considered as part of any forthcoming Housing Bill.
“Illegal evictions and tenant harassment is something which we don’t have the clearest of pictures of across the country as it’s often difficult to recognise or goes unreported, but what we see in this report is that illegal evictions did not decline during the coronavirus pandemic. We also saw that people who sought advice around illegal evictions often need other help around things like benefits and legal proceedings.”
In cases across the country, CABs have seen evidence of unacceptable behaviour such as a mother from the west of Scotland who was given notice to leave their rented property in July 2021 on the grounds that the landlord’s son needed the house. The client and her family moved out in January 2022. Shortly after this, they found out that the house had been put back on the rental market for £300 more per month in rent and the landlord’s son is still living outside the UK.
Elsewhere, a mother of two young children sought help after being illegally evicted. Their landlord was not registered and did not hold her deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme. Although the landlord issued her with a notice to leave, he did not go to the housing and property chamber when she did not leave on the date the notice expired. Instead he let himself into the property and changed the locks when she was out and removed her belongings and put them on the street. The client has not had any of her deposit returned to her. Due to the upheaval of applying as homeless with two young children, she was not able to complete the paperwork in the three month time limit to raise an action in the housing and property chamber in relation to the tenancy deposit.
Aoife Deery added: “Illegal eviction puts people at risk of homelessness, but at that stage many tenants face barriers of support from councils. People have been rejected for temporary accommodation, even when they had nowhere else to go, on the basis that their landlord provided them with incorrect or no tenancy paperwork.
“It is simply unacceptable that people should face barriers to accessing homelessness assistance when they need it, councils should review their approach around helping people affected by illegal eviction.
“Not enough people know about their rights when it comes to the difference between a legal and illegal eviction. Challenging this practice is often difficult, especially when faced with threats to safety. The system needs to be more robust to empower tenants and local authorities to take swift action against illegal evictions.”