Criminal offences

british landlords associationUnlawful eviction – Criminal offences

Protection from Eviction Act 1977 s1 creates offences relating to acts of unlawful eviction and harassment of residential occupiers.

There are various other offences specific to the landlord and tenant context (Criminal Law Act 1977 s6 and Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s1).

The ordinary criminal law may also be relevant (eg, assault, theft). For the purposes of Protection from Eviction Act 1977, a residential occupier means ‘a person occupying the premises as a residence, whether under a contract or by virtue of any enactment or rule of law giving him the right to remain in occupation or restricting the right of any other person to recover possession of the premises’ (s1(1)).

This includes those who are, or were, secure or assured tenants and also those who are, or were, non-protected tenants and licensees that are not excluded (Protection from Eviction Act 1977 ss3 and 3A) and their households up to the point of eviction by the court bailiffs.

House of Lords R v Burke [ 99 ] AC ; [ 990] 2 WLR ; ( 990) 9 Cr App R 84; [ 990] 2 All ER 8 ; ( 99 ) 22 HLR 4 , HL

Offence of harassment can arise despite no breach of civil law The House of Lords upheld convictions under Protection from Eviction Act 1977 s1(3) where a landlord had padlocked a lavatory, disconnected the front doorbells and cut off water supplies to one of the toilets and one of the bathrooms. It was not necessary for an act by a landlord to be actionable in civil law in order for it to be an offence under s1(3). The House of Lords approved the Court of Appeal decision in R v Yuthiwattana (O10.7). In his speech Lord Griffiths referred to harassment as a ‘social evil’.

Court of Appeal
R v Ahmad ( 987) 84 Cr App R 4; ( 98 ) 8 HLR 4 ; ( 98 ) 2 P&CR 4 , CA

Intentional failure to rectify damage not an offence The defendant landlord started building works and removed all of the tenant’s bathroom fittings.

After a meeting at the tenancy relations office, he agreed not to do any further works until firm agreement was reached on, among other things, storage of the tenant’s belongings.

Over the next year, he carried out no further works and the bathroom remained out of use. He was charged alternatively with offences under Protection from Eviction Act 1977 s1(3)(a) and s1(3)(b).

There was evidence that, once the landlord had removed the bathroom fittings, he formed the intention of evicting the tenant. On appeal, the landlord’s conviction was quashed because, after he formed the necessary intention, he did not do acts, but merely failed to rectify damage caused.

Where a landlord ‘innocently’ causes damage, an intentional failure to rectify that damage is not a crime.

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