Written by: Shani Fowler
Keeping a roof over our heads is paramount, one of our basic requirements, though one that can often be taken for granted. For varying reasons people can find that they are suddenly asked to leave or find out that they are to be evicted from their homes. The prospect of having nowhere to go is an extremely scary one, so knowing your rights in this situation is imperative to protect yourself and your family from facing homelessness.
In the first instance
There are many different situations where you may be facing eviction and protective laws surrounding eviction can therefore be complex. The Citizens Advice or a Shelter advice centre would be the best starting point to secure advice on your actual rights in your particular situation. Their specialist advisers may be able to assist with establishing any rights you have to remain in your home, they may be able to assist negotiations with your landlord or financial lender in paying any arrears, or may help you apply for benefits which can assist you pay your rent or mortgage. If the problem is due to a family, domestic or even neighbour disputes these advice services may be able to find mediation services that can help resolve any issues. You can use Shelter’s advice directory to find you nearest adviser.
Reasons you might be asked to leave
Has a relative or friend (other than husband/wife or civil partner) or landlord (if you are a lodger) asked you to leave your accommodation? Unless the person allows you to stay longer then you probably will have to leave – but it is always worth requesting if you can stay longer and letting them know you are actively getting help or actively looking to find another place to live.
Can your husband/wife/civil partner evict you?
Whether or not you are the tenant or legal owner of your home, you do have rights to stay if you have been asked to leave. Only a Court could order you to leave your home, this would be unlikely unless you have been violent to your partner. If you have already left you may have the right to return home, but in order to exercise these rights a Court Order might be necessary. If however, you are not married or in a civil partnership and you are not the legal owner or tenant, then your rights are more limited. In these circumstances, your partner can usually give you reasonable notice that they require you to leave but force should not be used to evict you. If you wish to exclude a violent partner from your home or you have been evicted from your home by a former partner there is the possibility you can apply for an Occupation Order. This would usually require the assistance of a solicitor who specialises in family law; legal aid may be available if you are a victim of domestic violence.
Can your landlord or financial lender evict you?
A landlord cannot harass or order you out of the property you live in. Harassment would include making threats, cutting off utility services, and/or changing the locks when you were not on the premises. If this happens you should immediately seek advice. In most situations there is a legal process landlords must adopt before you can be made to leave, that would be through a Court Order. It can depend on the sort of tenancy or agreement you have, if the process is not carried out correctly then you might have been subject to an illegal eviction. Homeowners can have their home repossessed by a lender if there is a failure to make repayments, but a homeowner should establish their rights regarding repossession.
What if the landlord takes you to Court?
To be evicted by the Court a landlord must firstly have proven to have followed the correct and legal procedures. It should follow that you have been provided with a notice to leave that gives you two months to vacate the premises, the landlord has taken you to Court to obtain a Court Order and only a bailiff can evict you should you not leave the premises. The correct criteria have to be in place for the eviction to be granted, such as the agreement has ended or possibly other reasons such as unpaid rent. A Court Order grants a time period for leaving the premises, usually between 14 and 28 days. If you still don’t leave the landlord can request a warrant for Court bailiffs to evict you.
A mortgage lender must have a reason for wanting to repossess your home and the Court has to agree that this is reasonable. Mostly lenders re-possess due to a default on payments towards the mortgage. If you have mortgage arrears seek advice before your lender takes any action, quite often agreements can be reached.
If your home becomes at risk for any reason, the key is getting professional advice for your unique circumstances as soon as possible in order to examine the best way forward. You can contact the CAB or Shelter 0808 800 4444 as a starting point, hopefully develop valid and solid plans for either continuing to be able to live in your home, or successfully find alternative accommodation.