University of York: Researchers call for better reporting of landlords who have illegally evicted and harassed tenants

The researchers also found that of the 7,000 landlords who were brought to the attention of advice agencies and local authorities, only 23 landlords had legal action taken against them following complaints to local authorities and agencies in 2020/21.

Going forward, the researchers are calling for all local authorities and agencies to establish an official annual count of all landlords who have illegally evicted and harassed tenants.

Harassment

At present, illegal eviction and harassment is the only criminal offence that applies specifically to landlords – while prosecutions under the Protection from Eviction Act are the primary legislation for dealing with that offence.

However, the researchers say the low prosecution figures suggests that the severity of this crime is not currently recognised by the criminal justice system – raising questions as to whether PfEA is fit for purpose as a protective measure.

The researchers believe an official annual count of illegal evictions will highlight the disparity between convictions under the Act and the problems that tenants are encountering in reality.

The researchers contend that the number of prosecutions under the Act is not so much an indicator of the scale of the offences, but more an indicator of the willingness of local authorities to take action.

Evidence

There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that tenants are reluctant to take action against landlords, partly because of lack of available evidence, and the time-consuming nature of taking a landlord to court.

Dr Julie Rugg, from the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy, said: “Because our data collection method only includes individuals who were willing and able to approach advice agencies and local authorities, we believe the 7,000 figure is in fact a substantial underestimate of the incidence of this kind of crime.”

The proposed annual count has two elements: the incidence of prosecutions under the PfEA, and evidence of offences committed under the PFEA.

Problems

The two different elements are deemed essential in order to highlight the disparity between convictions under the Act and the problems that tenants are encountering in reality.

Finally, the researchers also say that the strongest rationale for monitoring offences under the Act is a moral one: that these actions are the very worst practices a tenant can experience.

The report also features testimony from Wilma, a tenant who was illegally evicted by her landlord:

“It was so much hardship I have to go through with my daughter. I wish my daughter didn’t have to go through all this …It was a trauma I experienced…seeing all my daughter’s and my belonging was thrown outside the house and I was living in fear that every day we could be thrown out at any time.

“I did ask for the council for help but they reject on the basis of NRPF [No Recourse to Public Funds], I still didn’t get any support since then. I had to go through so much …I can’t imagine how the landlord could get away with this and not be penalised for such an act.”

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