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Problem Landlords

Wednesday 3 February 2010 Renting A Home

Although many students enjoy a hassle-free tenancy, we do hear cases of students encountering problems with their landlords. Find out how you are legally protected from your landlord’s bad behaviour, and what to do if problems arise.

Harassment is a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Technically speaking, the term harassment relates to acts by a landlord or their agent that are likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupiers or which involve the withdrawal or withholding of services reasonably required for occupation.

As well as landlords and their agents, tenants might be subjected to harassment from third parties including co-tenant(s), neighbours, and anyone who is targeting students for crime. If this happens, contact the tenancy relations officer at your local authority through your students’ union.

Grounds for possession

Landlords can repossess their property by citing what are known as grounds for possession. These apply to both assured and assured short-hold tenancies. However, while at the end of a fixed-term agreement on an assured tenancy a landlord has to supply any one of the grounds in order to gain repossession, for an assured short-hold no grounds need to be given. For more details see the welfare officer at your students' union.

Illegal eviction

This occurs when a landlord evicts, or attempts to evict, a residential occupier from all or part of their home without following the required legal procedure. In extreme cases this can involve landlords changing the locks or throwing a tenant’s property out into the street. However, more commonly it occurs when the landlord deviates less dramatically from the correct procedures.

What a landlord has to do to ensure they are not acting illegally depends on the status of the occupier. Most students living in shared houses should be given notice to quit, an automatic ground for possession and a court order. Unprotected occupiers, which includes students living in halls of residence, should be given notice, and a court order will be needed. Students who live with a residential landlord and share the facilities are excluded occupiers and only need to be given notice to quit.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence and is covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Contact the tenancy relations officer at your local authority through your students' union.