One of my priorities as Mayor is for more people in our city to have a stable, secure home. We’re delivering this not only by bringing forward the new homes that Bristol needs, but also through our work to stamp out illegal evictions in our city. It’s a practice that we want to see ended in Bristol.
Tenants and lodgers have legal protection against harassment and illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This means that to evict a tenant from a property, landlords must follow strict procedures. If they fail to do so, they can be guilty of a criminal offence. This includes if they do not give tenants the correct notice to leave the property, or if they harass tenants to make them leave.
Despite there being a ban on evictions in place during the pandemic, it is estimated that more than 90,000 people in the UK have been threatened with homelessness, with more than half having lost their accommodation. And it is likely that the scale of illegal evictions taking place across the country is underreported.
As a Council, we are committed to working proactively with tenants and landlords to maintain tenancies, and when appropriate, to prosecute where there are cases of harassment and illegal eviction.
In order to prosecute cases of illegal evictions, the Council must consider whether it is in the public interest, and the standard of evidence must be sufficient to meet a criminal standard of proof. This is why we advise residents to write down the details of everything that happens including dates, times and what was said; to encourage your landlord to confirm anything said verbally in writing; and to try and have someone with you to give you support and be a witness.
Our Tenancy Relations Team work closely with the Police to investigate and take legal action if necessary. This work has included providing the Police with an aide memoire for officers to use if they attend incidents related to tenancy disputes, and officers from the team are engaging with the police to offer training to call handlers and officers.
We know, however, that agencies in our city have an important role to play and there is more to be done to empower tenants, advise landlords on their responsibilities, and to take enforcement action when illegal evictions occur. The council, police, letting agents and support agencies all have a role to play in ending illegal evictions in Bristol, and in pointing people to services where they can obtain legal, financial or emotional support.
That is why I am pleased that Councillor Tom Renard, our new Cabinet Member for Housing, with considerable experience in campaigning for tenants rights, is taking on this important portfolio within the council. I also welcome the work that ACORN has done to raise awareness of this issue, and the work they are undertaking through our Homes and Communities Board to raise the importance of illegal evictions with partners across our city, and to ensure those affected are properly supported.