Question: “I rent from a private landlord. I have been struggling to meet my rent payments recently as I am on zero hour contract, and my income varies.
As a result some rent arrears have built up.
My landlord has started harassing me and threatening me that he is going to come and change my locks.
He is attending the property unannounced late at night, banging on the door and frightening me.
I believe my hours at work will go back up soon and I should be able to catch up with the rent.”
Answer: If you are having a period of financial difficulty, and your income is reduced, you should check with the council whether you are entitled to any Housing Benefit.
If you are, you should make that claim as soon as you can.
If you are entitled to some Housing Benefit you can also apply to the local authority for extra help with your housing costs. This is called discretionary housing payment. The forms will be available from your housing benefit office.
If your landlord’s harassment does not stop he may be committing a criminal offence under both the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
If the behaviour continues you should report it to the police and to your local authority’s tenancy enforcement officer.
You should also seek legal advice regarding obtaining an injunction (i.e. a court order) against your landlord to stop this behaviour continuing.
You can also in certain circumstances claim for compensation against him.
Your landlord is not permitted to simply change your locks and evict you.
If he wants to take possession of the property he needs to go through the correct procedure. Firstly he must serve you with a valid Notice Seeking Possession. If you do not leave by expiry of the notice, then he will need to apply to the County Court for a Possession Order.
Depending on the grounds he brings the claim, and the circumstances of the case, you may have a defence to such an application.
If he obtains a possession order from the court and you do not leave upon its expiry then he will need to obtain a bailiff’s warrant of eviction.
Any steps short of this are unlawful and if he evicts you without following the proper procedure you can make an application to the court to claim both damages and an injunction to readmit you to the property.
If these problems continue I suggest that you obtain independent legal advice. In relation to most of these issues legal aid is still available provided you are financially eligible.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist Housing solicitors who can advise you on issues such as this. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.