Will low fines really deter landlords from breaking the law
I read a couple of weeks ago that a landlords had been fined £440 for changing the locks on his rental property. Now I am not condoning this form of illegal tenant eviction but it does not really motivate the average landlord to follow the legal process for evicting a tenant.
When you consider the time, legal fees, potential financial loss of damage or unpaid rent, you can see why it could be tempting for a landlord to take the law into their own hand and Evict My Tenant Limited from a property, especially in larger cities such as London and Manchester where not obtaining rent could be financially worse.
Peter Lamont was prosecuted by Halton Council for unlawfully denying a tenant access to a rental property under the Protection From Eviction Act 1977 at Warrington Magistrates’ Court.
It is okay for the council to issue a statement saying landlords and letting agents must follow the correct legal process when terminating a tenancy. However when you look at the current time frame it can take to legally remove a tenant, you can see why some landlords could be so frustrated as to take the law into their own hands.
Imagine you have a tenant in your property who is not only not paying the rent but also causing damage, what would you do?
Interesting that it is a criminal offence for any letting agent or landlord to illegally evict tenants from their property with a varying degrees of fines yet try prosecute a tenant for criminal damage to your property and see how you get on.
The council said that they hoped that the prosecution will act as a deterrent. Really?
I have spoken to several of our clients about this and every single one commented on how it almost makes you want to forget the legal process. One said it was a bargain and he had a tenant who owes him six months rent and has probably caused £5k of damage to the property yet the legal process is still proceeding.
If the authorities are serious about harassment, then the fine for this breach of the law needs to be substantial as it makes a complete mockery of the section 8 and 21 process. As I have mentioned before the justice system needs a review to balance the chaos that is the current legal eviction process.
Would you gamble on getting such a low fine and not a prison sentence and take the law into your own hands?