The Local Government Association says recent prosecutions show that councils are cracking down on illegal evictions by landlords and their agents - but it wants the legal process to be speeded up to bring more cases to court.
The LGA says recent council prosecutions include:
- in Birmingham, a landlord was prosecuted for illegally evicting a couple and their seven children from their home, changing the locks and shoving the family into the garage. The offence cost him more than £2,000;
- also in Birmingham, a landlord was forced to pay more than £5,000 after illegally evicting a mother and her 11-year-old son, putting her belongings in the garden and changing the locks. When she regained access using a locksmith he had the locks drilled out, leaving her too scared to stay at the property;
- in North East Lincolnshire, a landlord received a suspended prison sentence after a tenant returned to the flat to find the locks changed and some possessions removed. The landlord said he thought the tenant had left the property;
- in Middlesbrough, a landlord was given a 12-month community order after forcing her way into a home and evicting a family with young children, bundling their possessions into black bags;
- in Manchester, a landlord was fined £3,500 after removing a family illegally and making them homeless.
The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, says these prosecutions show local authorities won't allow unscrupulous landlords to bully tenants out of their homes - but it is demanding the government does more.
"An extra [recently announced] £5 million funding from government to help councils tackle rogue landlords as well as proposals in the Housing and Planning Bill for a database of rogue landlords and to allow councils to levy fines up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution, are an important step forward” says LGA spokesman Peter Box.
"However, any database should be properly resourced and the legal process in relation to prosecutions should be speeded up so that, where appropriate, illegal eviction cases can be brought more quickly to court" he insists.