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Unlawful eviction laws are not enforced as much as they should be, campaign group Generation Rent has claimed.
Between 2016 and 2019 there were an average of 24 landlord prosecutions in England and Wales for unlawful eviction, it said. Yet in 2019-20, 1040 households were made homeless as a result of illegal eviction.
‘The total number of illegal evictions is likely much higher than the homelessness figures suggest, as councils only record cases of people who seek their help and qualify for support. But even a prosecution rate as high as 2 per cent would be pitiful – it lets criminal landlords act with impunity, and shatters any confidence renters have in the legal system’.
The risk of landlords using illegal methods to remove occupants is rising due to the restrictions on eviction during the pandemic, claimed Generation Rent.
‘Local authorities and police officers have powers to stop illegal eviction and prosecute offenders. But few councils have fully-funded tenancy relations officers to perform this role. And too often police officers attending illegal evictions are unaware of the Protection from Eviction Act’.
The group, which is funded by private donations and those from such organisations as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Trust for London, has called for voters in upcoming local elections, to elect candidates for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner who will ‘reset police attitudes to illegal eviction and commit to better training of police officers so that they are fully aware of illegal eviction laws’.
But a shift in the Police’s approach to illegal eviction is not enough, it said. ‘Councils are better-placed to enforce housing law than cops but they don’t have an explicit duty to take action in cases of illegal eviction. So we also need a change to the law to give councils the duties and powers they need to bring criminal landlords to justice – and the funding to employ full-time tenancy relations Officers’.
Generation Rent has started a petition on the subject.