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Tenants legal help – when the police unjustly support your landlord

The BillSome time ago I did a post on locks and keys, and it is one of the posts on this blog which regularly attracts new comments, even though it was written quite a while ago.

One of the recent comments is rather worrying. It is from Karen who says

I recently changed the locks on the flat that I rent as the Landlords family were letting themselves in whenever they wanted. Today the Landlord tried to gain access again and as I was in I called the Police. The Police immediately took the Landlords side and the officer himself changed the lock giving a key to the Landlord and telling me that if I changed it back I would be arrested. What can I do?

This of course bears out what Ben has been saying week in week out in his TRO Confidential posts, and which we can also see from the case of Naughton v. Whittle and Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police.

In that case, Mr Naughton called the police to help him when his landlord was unlawfully evicting him.  However, the Officer took the landlords side, threatened him with arrest for breach of the peace, and physically removed him from the property. Mr Naughton sued, and they settled the claim for a payment of £2,500.

What should you do if, like in Karen’s case, the Police take the landlords side? I think you should do SOMETHING, as if no-one ever challenges the Police, they are not going to change.

Probably in a case like Karen’s, you should write, making a formal complaint. There is quite a bit of information on the Independent Police Complaints Commission website although I note that they don’t make financial awards.  If that does not work, try  a solicitors letter and threat of a legal claim.

You won’t get all of this, but a possible list of things to ask for includes:

  • An apology
  • Confirmation that the Officer concerned was in the wrong and will be reprimanded
  • Confirmation that if you protect your right to privacy (as set out in the covenant of quiet enjoyment in your tenancy agreement) in future, by changing the locks, the Police will not interfere again
  • A letter to this effect for you to show any Officers who may be called by the landlord in future, and
  • Financial compensation for the distress and humiliation  suffered in circumstances where you were fully in the right

It would also be an idea to refer them to the Naughton case – perhaps provide a copy of the report on this blog and also the report on the Nearly Legal blog – just in case they deny that they are in the wrong.  Which may well be their reaction.

Does anyone have experience in dealing with complaints against the Police for matters such as this?

Photo by RightIndex

About the author

Tessa Shepperson Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is also a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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36 Responses to Tenants legal help – when the police unjustly support your landlord

  1. Except that, changing the locks (unless carried out or permitted under a covenant in the lease) is arguably a criminal damage (albeit there’s a defence if the tenant believes, however wrongly, they have a right to do so).

    Many tenancy agreements expressly forbid the changing of locks by the tenant. There’s no self-help right to do so that mysteriously arises from the landlord’s misconduct.

    A lot of tenancy advisers say (from wishful thinking only) that landlords have no right to enter the demised premises and that tenants have a right to change the locks. Both false and/or confused.

    That doesn’t mean that in this context what the police did was right – we haven’t seen the lease after all or been told the exact circumstances – but I do worry about the extent of misinformation about lock changing.

  2. Tessa Shepperson says:

    What about the landlords breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment? I have had female tenants ring me up, terrified, becuase their male landlords keep letting themselves into the property without premission.

    Do they then either have to put up with this or burden an already overburdened court by bringing an expensive claim for an injunction?

  3. @Tessa – that’s a reasonable point, but its a general argument in favour of self-help and the law leans fairly heavily against self-help. You might just as well say, why should landlords have to bother with (expensive) claims for possession when they could cheaply lock former tenants out?

    So, while its logical, it doesn’t make it the law. There’s no common law rule of self-help that permits it (as far as I know). The landlord’s breach might make it difficult or impossible for them to sue for damages and a plea of necessity might avoid a conviction for criminal damage.

    So, it might be safe to do it, but like all self-help its a precarious thing to do. In the “terrified” case, the risk might well be worth it.

    What I am keen to get across is that there is no *general* right to change locks and exclude the landlord. That is something one reads all the time and is plain wrong.

    Where the landlord’s conduct amounts to a crime (say contrary to the Protection from Eviction Act or Protection from Harassment Act) then its hard to fault a tenant who takes action to prevent it (and it should be a defence to a CDA prosecution to do so). Where the landlord is merely guilty of a breach of covenant, I’m not so sure that it is safe to just do it.

    But here we don’t have enough facts even to decide that.

    There’s a flip side: if a landlord did need tenant cooperation to enter property then any s.11 inspection would require cooperation from the tenant, so a tenant could be blamed (as many landlords try to) for failing to be present to let in surveyors/agents and (where there’s a right to enter to repair) contractors. I’ve seen landlords insist they need the tenant to be there in order to enter the property and thus try to avoid their obligations.

  4. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    I could obviously write a very long list of cases where our local police have at best done nothing to assist tenants in the middle of an illegal eviction and at worst have actually assisted the landlord with it. This happens several times each week but I think I have written enough for people to get the picture.

    I am looking to get back to the situation we had in my district several years ago where we trained policeb new to the area regularly every 6 to 8 weeks. Things were brilliant then. They had our phone numbers in their wallet and even a laminated card that we produced that enabled them to ascertain if the person in front of them was a tenant or a licencee, and therefore subject to the right to full possession proceedings. They gave the correct advice and referred tenants to us the next day, usually with a photocopy of the Incident Report Book entry and even charging sheets. On one momentous occasion the attending officers used their truncheons (are they still called that?) to break a tenant back in.

    We have contacted our borough commander with our complaints and offering this training as a solution.

    Francis’s point is an interesting one. I have always taken the line of Street v Mountford logic, in that the tenant has exclusive occupation, therefore the right to exclude anyone including the landlord and that no tenancy clause would cancel that.

    I cant see how changing a lock would be criminal damage when all that is being done is removing a Yale lock barrel and replacing it with a new one. The tenants can either provide the new keys for the landlord when they move out or slip the old barrell back in.

    Plus, as Tessa suggests above, the landlord doesnt really have too much to complain about given that a lock change is usualy the reaction to the landlord’s breaches in the first place. Last month I advised a young woman to change the lock to her room door when she found out from co-tenants that the landlord was entering her room and rummaging through her underwear drawer.

    I know that advising on a lock change is standard advice for most front line housing rights advisers and I have never klnown a landlord raise this as a legal point in any proceedings, despite their grumblings on the phone. Are there any case precedents you know of Francis? I take your point on principal but as I say, I have never know it to be raised in court in any of my cases

  5. Ben – I don’t know of any precedents, but your view of the law causes other problems (as I have explained) with disrepair and gas inspections which I have encountered.

    Section 11 gives a right to enter to inspect the property (as do some other statutes as you know) and the tenancy agreement might give a right to enter.

    Street v Mountford doesn’t mean what you think it means. In order to assess whether someone is a tenant you look to see if they have exclusive occupation for a term. However “exclusive occupation” does not mean that the landlord has no right to enter. There was a time when tenant status was really crucial that landlords tried to retain rights to enter for all sorts of reasons to undermine “exclusive occupation” so as to negate tenant status. The courts found that merely having a right on the part of the landlord to enter did not stop the tenant having exclusive occupation.

    Now it might be OK as a response to criminal behaviour to take unilateral action (at least it might not be criminal itself) but as you say there are many who think that it should be standard practice to change the locks on entry to a property and do so (without any hint of bad practice on behalf of the landlord).

    Landlords are almost certainly as clueless about it as tenants, so this (I suspect) is why its rarely raised in claims. What I’m keen is that you and other tenant advisers understand the legal position. If you take a pragmatic decision to breach the landlord-tenant covenant (or to risk breaking the criminal law) for some greater good, then at least you’ve understood what you are doing.

    What you should be careful of is telling tenants they have the right to do it.

    Whether there should be a right to change locks or something similar is a completely different matter.

  6. Tessa Shepperson says:

    But is a tenancy not an estate in land (LPA25 s1)? The tenant ‘owns’ the property for the period of the tenancy. A tenancy agreement is a deed of title. Like a long lease but for a shorter period of time.

    So if they change the locks, tenants may be in breach of contract with their landlord, but I don’t see how they can be comitting any criminal offence.

    On the other hand, the landlord entering the tenants property without permission is arguably in breach of s1(3A) of the Protection from Eviction Act, which is a criminal offence.

    So my reading is that it is the landlord who is in breach of the criminal law, not the tenant.

  7. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    I think therein lies the gap between lawyers and non lawyer advisers Francis. Technically I am sure you are correct but in front line services we have to act quickly and decisively (maybe even cheekily) at times, because of the sheer numbers we have to deal with.

    When you have a single (non priority need)person in reception at 4pm on a Friday afternoon who has just been unlawfully evicted you have to take a swift route if they arent going to spend the weekend sleeping on the streets. We do know the law but have to balance out the likelyhood of landlord’s legal comebacks against practicalities.

    I am with Tessa on this in respect of the Law of Property Act, and agre with you that

    On the police point, I have just finished an interview with a man whose landord turned up on Saturday with a man and 2 grown up sons to remonstrate with him over rent arrears. They kicked the door off its hinges (he had photographs) and threw all of his belongings into the front garden. Police were called and the sons started to fight them and were arrested. The police told the tenant that he would have to move out. I just phoned the incident room and the whole matter has been simply recorded as a disturbance

  8. Pamela says:

    On a slight tangent to this, I understand how the right to privacy is protected (as set out in the covenant of quiet enjoyment in your tenancy agreement), but what about the case of a lodger, or, for that matter as a family member living in someone else’s home under licence. What legal rights to privacy do they have and how may they protect them?

  9. Tessa Shepperson says:

    There is a lot of information about lodger matters on this blog’s sister site Lodger Landlord http://www.lodgerlandlord.co.uk/

  10. Martin says:

    I for one am no further forward… as a landlord can you tell me in simple yes or no fashion:

    > can my tenant LEGALLY change the locks on a property (normal 6m AST) (not concerned if criminal but simply legal)?
    > can I ALWAYS access the property legally with due notice (I normally give a good few days)?

    Let’s assume for this I am not a monster and am not pestering the tenant or unduly disturbing them. Let’s say I simply need to let a gas engineer in to carry out a check (which I do often struggle with due to tenants not actually caring if it gets done or not!).

    To finish I would say that none of my tenants have ever changed their locks and we have what seems to be good relationships with all tenants (no forced evictions or excessive rent arrears in over ten years on ten properties).

  11. Tessa Shepperson says:

    If your tenant changes the locks when there is a clause in your tenancy agreement prohibiting this, the tenant will be in breach of contract.

    However there is probably not much you can do about this unless you are prepared to go to court to get an injunction. And if the tenant has changed the locks because you keep going in without premission (just for illustration, I’ m not saying you do!) the Judge will probably refuse to grant the injunction.

    Accessing the property depends on what you have agreed with your tenant. If they always are happy for you to go in using your keys then that is fine (there is what we lawyers call a course of dealing). However if they get in touch and say they don’t want you to go in any more unless they are there, then you can’t go in unless they are there.

    It is not always possible to answer these things in a yes/no manner.

  12. @Martin – Answering the question about entry first (the question about the locks is a bit more complicated and I need to pick up on something Tessa said earlier).

    The default position is that all the property that is leased (what lawyers call “the demise”) belongs to the tenant for the duration of the tenancy. Entering onto the property without a specific right to do so would be a trespass.

    However, the tenancy agreement _may_ give the landlord rights to enter and, provided they are reasonable and provided the landlord complies with whatever conditions there are in the tenancy agreement, the landlord will not commit a trespass by entering the property under that right.

    Section 11(6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 also gives a landlord a right to enter (most properties let under short leases) in order to view the condition of the property (i.e. an inspection).

    Now, the difficulty (for landlords) is that a residential occupier who is in occupation of premises at the time you try to enter can oppose your entry. If you then use force to enter, you commit a criminal offence.

    Tessa is therefore not quite right in saying “However if they get in touch and say they don’t want you to go in any more unless they are there, then you can’t go in unless they are there.”. Provided you act reasonably and don’t enter when they are there you and you are acting under a right in the lease or under statute, then you don’t commit a crime or a trespass.

    Example, if you want to exercise s11(6) powers to enter to view, you would normally give the tenant notice you wanted to do so and when and explain that you will let yourself in if they aren’t there. If they don’t respond and you attend the property, you can then knock/ring on the bell, and if there is no answer, let yourself in. If, on the other hand, they let you know they don’t want you to do so then strictly speaking they can only stop you by being on the premises and physically preventing your entry. In reality you would not want it to go that far, but you might want to explain that you could evict them (for breach of covenant) and/or get an injunction entitling you to enter.

    Reasonableness is important for two reasons: (i) if you don’t have a good reason, you risk being sued for breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment, harassment or unlawful eviction (for conduct likely to cause the tenant to leave) – this is what Ben and Tessa seem to be worried about, but I’m assuming that you aren’t doing this oppressively and its justified; (ii) if you don’t have a good reason, you are unlikely to get an injunction or a possession order.

    As for changing the locks – it depends on what the tenancy agreement says, but if it forbids them doing it, then you would be entitled to change them back and charge the tenant for doing so.

    I can see why tenants like to control access to their properties, but that doesn’t mean its lawful for them to do so.

  13. @Tessa – on the Law of Property Act point: assuming the door is part of the demise (it isn’t always – you see some weird things like inner surfaces sometimes, particularly in long leases), then it is the tenant’s property but its _also_ the landlord’s property from the point of view of the Criminal Damage Act since the landlord owns the reversion.

    It is quite possible to commit criminal damage against property that one owns. A good example being an old 1974 case R v Smith (David) which is a favourite of criminal law lecturers. Tenant installed floorboards in a conservatory to cover some cabling. Before eviction (and therefore while still a tenant) he removed some of the floorboards in order to access the cabling. The Court of Appeal accepted that the floorboards having become a fixture were part of the property and therefore the landlord’s property (within the meaning of the CDA) and so the tenant’s actions could be criminal damage.

    If there’s a well drafted and usual form of tenancy agreement requiring the tenant not to alter the property (perhaps even expressly saying no to changing the locks) the tenant will have difficulty pleading a lawful excuse or a belief in a lawful right to do so.

    The only plea left is some kind of necessity plea (either statutory or common law) which might well be made out if the landlord is acting criminally against the tenant and that is the only way to stop it.

    @Ben – I don’t know of any CDA prosecution for removal of the barrel of a lock (the only reported crim. damage cases involving locks also involve damage to the door jam or the area around the lock) but while s. CDA is an indictable offence it is only dealt with summarily for low value offences so it probably wouldn’t show up in a reported case.

    However I don’t see why removal of the barrel and replacement by the tenant’s own should not be criminal damage, see R v Nicholas Alan Whiteley [1991] 93 Cr App R 25 which has a good summary of the law on this point. It is criminal damage to disable a device (or to make it inoperable by its owner) eg by removing a component. The reasoning applies to locks I suggest.

    Now I appreciate the lawyer v non-lawyer point, but I think its always important to have a clear and precise understanding of what the law is, even if one then decides either to ignore it, or to take a calculated risk. You can’t take a _calculated_ risk if you don’t know what the underlying law says.

    There’s a complex question of landlord and tenant relationships. Changing the locks can be seen as quite hostile by some landlords, but if you are an excellent tenant, maybe they will be happy with it. It really depends. I suspect you don’t see the cases where it all works well.

    I used to rent a house and would find the agents had entered and (on one occasion) replaced the entirety of the front of the sitting room while I was out. It didn’t worry me at all.

  14. Tessa Shepperson says:

    It would be interesting to have a test case. I wonder if the Court in the R v Smith (David) case would have come to the same decision if the tenant had been changing the front door lock because the landlord was continually entering the property in breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

    Particularly if the landlord was male and the tenant female and terrified of him.

    I think it is important that tenants should be able to feel safe in their own homes. And although technically they may be entitled to an injunction, this is completely impractical for most tenants.

  15. @Tessa – like I said, if there’s a question of being safe in one’s own home, then there might well be a defence under section 5:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/48/section/5

    But there is a big difference between that case, and the advice I’ve seen offered to tenants to routinely and as a matter of course change the locks on the doors when they move in.

    If I were a landlord and a tenant did that, I’d evict them as soon as possible. There’s simply not room in the world for people who take the law into their own hands. I’d assume that if they lacked respect for my property rights in one respect, they might in others.

    I used to do a lot of Gas injunction cases – where tenants would not allow access to do the annual gas inspection. As I said earlier, if the tenant changes the locks, it makes it much harder for the landlord to comply with their obligations (in terms of gas inspection and repair) and as a result _reduces_ their potential criminal and civil liability. This is one of the reasons why the law has set the balance where it lies, giving landlords limited rights of entry provided they don’t do so unreasonably.

  16. Tessa Shepperson says:

    We had an interesting discussion about the gas situation last year here http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2010/09/28/gas-safety-checks-can-landlords-do-them-anyway-even-if-tenants-say-no/

    Frances I don’t think anyone here is saying that tenants should routinely change the locks. That is not what this post is about. Its about what the tenant can do if the landlord is in breach of his covenant of quiet enjoyment, and also probably guilty of harassment under the Protection from Eviction Act.

    Incidentally there is a benefit to tenants in the landlord (a decent landlord that is) having a set of keys, as it means that they won’t have to break in if they lose theirs. Some tenants, I understand, routinely lose their keys and ring their landlords up at 2.00am asking if they could come round and let them in.

  17. The OFT (unfair contract terms bulletin 22) found against Bradford & Bingley t/a either local branch or letting agents. In particular, that a term prohibiting the tenant from changing the locks even when it was reasonable for him to do so, was withdrawn from the tenancy agreement.

  18. I find myself following this post with a degree of irritation. I respect the legal points put forward but I wonder, not for the first time, how an analysis of section 1 subsection (b)… Or whatsit v. Whatsname is helpful to mr Smith renting property off of Mrs Jones.

    Housing law is ludicrously complicated……uneccesarily so and it seems to me, working at the coalface, that legal arguments of this kind dont really serve anyone.

    Today is a case in point. I spoke to a landlord who had gone to a property to talk to a tenant who owed her £4,000. The conversation was conducted through the door by the tenant’s friend, the tenant wouldn’t talk directly. Things came to a head and the landlord’s son kicked the door in and was arrested by attending officers who later released him without charge. The landlord apologised and said that she didn’t expect things to go that way but her son’s frustration got the better of him.

    She was more than happy to help the tenant through a difficult time, and had done since November 2010 but information came to light that he had lied to both the landlord and housing benefit who pulled the claim because of discrepancies. I checked this and found it to be true.

    The landlord is faced with a lengthy and protracted section 8 claim with an uncertain outcome and even if outright possession is granted she won’t, in reality, recoup the arrears, and she knows that.

    The tenant is then facing a part VII claim for homelessness where intentional homelessness is going to feature large.

    This is an everyday human problem. The tenant wants justice, the landlord wants justice but do the vagaries and technicalities of landlord tenant law resolve matters for the human beings involved?

    Am I seriously going to go for an injunction when the tenant’s tale has more holes than a Swiss cheese? Am I going to take out a criminal prosecution under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 when the tenant has lied to the council and the landlord about his status?

    Yes the landlord has committed an illegal eviction but I am mindful of the recent post on Nearly Legal where the judge knocked £10,000 off of the damages just because the tenant didn’t respond to the efforts of the landlord to contact him about his arrears. landlords and tenants enter into a relationship with each other, whether they like it or not and the law, to my mind, often doesn’t serve that relationship

    It is all very well for housing law professionals to thumb through “Defending Possession Proceedings” or the latest edition of “Quiet Enjoyment” but how does this solve the problem for Mr and Mrs Smith?

    Sorry Francis. I say this with total respect for you and your work but I am speaking from a heartfelt perspective, as a person who has to try to find the middle ground. Has my landlord committed a criminal act? absolutely. Is she a human being acting out of frustration? absolutely. How does the law help either of these people?

  19. @Ben – I understand completely about realities and practicalities. A competent housing lawyer will be aware of them and should be alive to the nuances of any situation – and they are, as you know, all different. Sometimes one strategy is best, sometimes something quite different works. It depends on the client, the other party and lots of surrounding circumstances. Our job, as lawyers, is to help guide clients to understand what they want and to work out if its possible to achieve their aims and sometimes to tell them bluntly that they cannot.

    But that is *no* excuse for a lawyer not being absolutely clear about what the law is, however complicated it might be. I might not go through it all in detail with a client because they don’t need to know, but I had better be ready to defend my opinions if (say) my professional body came after me following a complaint.

    And that is why I am (sorry) uncompromisingly trying to express what the law is, not what one might wish it to be and not what lots of people do (“we all do it” doesn’t cut much ice in the long run and it can leave you very very sorry).

    I have tried to make it clear that that’s just a starting point. What you do is another matter.

    In this case all the law is old, well trodden and the best that one can do with a difficult situation (the landlord-tenant relationship is never going to be easy). Landlords have, and have to have, limited rights of entry, tenants have to be able to exclude them in certain circumstances, but should not in others. That’s what the law expresses, fairly clearly in my view.

    I doubt your landlord has committed a criminal act if her son acted without her encouragement and to her surprise (to his I imagine – people do things like that out of frustration without realising they are going to).

    Lastly, I am trying as hard as I can to explain what the law actually is so that people like Martin can work out what they are and are not allowed to do. I think that can help. Because I’m just commenting, I’m not setting things out in a clear order, but reacting to what has been said – much of it I think confusing. Sorry, but there it is.

    We started off with “I recently changed the locks on the flat that I rent as the Landlords family were letting themselves in whenever they wanted.”. Since we don’t know whether this is an over-sensitive tenant (some believe the landlord should never enter) or a really abusive landlord or points between, we don’t know what the legal position is. Rightly the law cares about that. Without some more probing, getting an apology from the police might be entirely the wrong advice.

    The next example raised was the female tenants terrified of their landlord. That’s a completely different situation. Changing the locks might be the right answer – but there’s probably a few more things they need to do to be safe. Depends on precisely why they are terrified, but here the message is “changing locks – almost certainly OK”.

    The third example is of an (assumed) decent landlord. He asks what his position is and the answer is (i) read your tenancy agreement; (ii) tenants don’t have a freestanding right to exclude you from the property; (iii) you have a limited right to enter (and may have more if your agreement says so) but you can’t go in if the tenant is trying to stop you, and its wisest to be aware of that.

    All that seems eminently practical. But it will confuse if all those different situations are jumbled together. I probably see a different set of cases from you of course which means I might have a different set of concerns.

    Stephen ONill rightly points out that a clause preventing a tenant from changing the locks when it was reasonable to do so is unfair. Clearly so. In the same bulletin a clause that required the tenant to obtain the landlord’s permission which would not be unreasonably withheld was found to be fair (it was suggested as an amendment). That conclusion should be self-evident and I don’t think it alters the argument.

  20. Tessa Shepperson says:

    Thanks very much Francis, that is most helpful.

  21. Now I understand your thinking and agree Francis. Every case is indeed different and we have to identify what the person wants to achieve and if achievable.

  22. mike robson says:

    Why should a landlord need to regularly enter his property while rent is being paid? There needs to be sound reason for entering a rent-paid let. I am concerned about privacy. Personal belongings, documents and lifestyle need not be under such scrutiny and how are we to know that a landlord is not pervert? A tenant should have the right to protect his/her private property and that means the right to change locks. The police should only concern themselves with upholding the law.

  23. Karen says:

    Being the person who made that initial comment I would personally like to thank Tessa for her advice both on here and personally and also Ben who has provided fantastic advice through his blogs.

    To clarify for this blog; I changed the locks initially because on 2 separate occasions I woke up to find my Landlords father in my flat, and on another occassion I turned round in the shower to find my landlords father standing at the bathroom door watching me. On 5 other occassions my Landlords father had let others into the flat using keys; one being a Police Inspector but more worryingly 3 times were Bailiffs trying to remove goods on warrants for former tenants.

    The Police did try to arrest me for theft of the lock; I showed them the lock and this was accepted as being proof that I did not “intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property” and then tried the Criminal Damage route; again the same lock was produced to show that there was no damage to the same ….. and the blushing embarrased Officer left with his tail between his legs!

    I really do agree with Ben that the Police do need more training and personally believe that they should be held to account for their actions. In my personal situation the Police are being included in the Proceedings; not for the money factor but for the training side.

    Incidently why do the Police not use their arrest powers under the Criminal Law Act 1977 which makes the threat of entry to a property using force or violence an arrestable offence instead of passing it over as civil??? This law clearly states that and “officer can arrest” so why don’t they? I agree there is no compensation for teh Tenant but in a situation like mine the arrest is what you are actually looking for as this then gives bail conditions etc and stops the situation in its tracks! Not surprisingly I can not find any details of a single prosecution under this Section of this Act….. someone prove me wrong?

  24. Tessa Shepperson says:

    In view of this one can’t help wondering why the police are nitpicking about obscure points of criminal damage when there is such a clear case of landlord harassment. Its rather like prosecuting an accident victim for obstructing the highway, while doing nothing about the person who caused the accident.

    Its all part of this “landlords are legit, tenants are trash” view point which many of the police (although not all) seem to adopt. The reality is that there are both good and bad tenants and both good and bad landlords. As Karen says, the police should be given proper training, so they can deal with cases more appropriately.

    Best of luck with your case Karen, and let us know how you get on.

  25. Francis Davey says:

    Yes, here the police seem to be unable to see the wood for the trees. The conduct of the landlord you describe looks like a classic case of harassment (much plainer than many I have seen) which is a criminal offence – and very much one that they should be involved in given successive government statements about anti-social behaviour.

    Also, I suspect the landlord’s right of entry (even if there is one in the tenancy agreement) does not permit entry in those circumstances.

    I hope Karen manages to get some competent help.

  26. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Karen when I used to train the police I would emphasise at that time that they had powers under Section 25 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to arrest a person whom they suspect of committing a criminal offence.

    The point they raised against it was their difficulties in getting the custody officer to hold a person who they were not themselves prosecuting. Apparently (I dont know if this is still true) The custody officer had to maintain what was called a ‘PACE Clock’, which was signed every hour by the custody officer justifying further detainment.

    Whenever I raised this possibility I recieved a mass chorus of teeth sucking and shifting in seats at the thought.

    I also want to say that I have a lot of time for the police as people, I do find them genuinely helpful. It really frustrates me that they make my job 10 times as hard but when I am actually in attendance at an incident with them they are happy to take on board the housing law stuff. They just dont know it and end up improvising with disastrous results. Makes you wonder what else they get wrong. I presume a lot of their knowledge in this area comes through shared anecdotes in the canteen……….a bit like where I work haha

  27. Francis Davey says:

    So maybe that’s something that needs raising at a higher (policy) level. The government are likely to be receptive to ideas that will help control ASB without more legislation and that sounds like reducing red tape.

    Its not clear to me why the CPS can’t prosecute or why they shouldn’t.

  28. I think maybe the CPS would Francis but all the cases I get involved with stop a mile short of them because the police officers on the ground continue to see these cases as civil only. I don’t think local authorities should be where these prosecutions should solely lay.

    I hate to sound like a broken record but most LAs don’t have the resources to follow up in the way that is required to be an effective force to tackle rogue landlords on their own.

    Legal aid changes will knock out assistance from solicitors so where is the slack going to get taken up? Where is a tenant with a rogue landlord going to turn for help?

  29. Francis Davey says:

    Allow private individuals to enforce confiscation and forfeiture orders for cases they have successfully prosecuted (and get proper costs) then we’d be back to the old days of the Mediaeval “appeal”.

    I’m not really serious of course, but that’s the Thatcherite answer.

  30. Karen says:

    Sorry I tried to reply several replies ago but my internet is playing up :( I think that my asking about the Police has been misinterperated … I was not refering to PACE but to the Police powers under Part 2, Sec 6 – 12 of the Criminal Law Act 1977; whereby the Police HAVE to act as there is a criminal offence that only thge Police can act on for a Landlord attempting to gain access to a property by using violence of th threat of to either the person or the property. Ma penalty if the police act is Scale 5 fine and / or 6 months prison. Why is this Law never used???? It puts the whole LL / T being “civil” straight back in the hands of the Ppolice as its Criminal (not Council Action but Police powers). Good luck to anyone else that tries to get the Police to enforce them as I’m having NO luck just being treatened with Public Order Offences …. we live and learn and I really hope that other like Ben continue to “educate” the Police (who do a fantastic job appart from LL / T … and I quote a local officer “we would be busy 24/7 if this was Criminal” it IS!!!

  31. Karen says:

    ^^^ My vitual keyboard has been sacked and going back to the old fashioned one as I didn’t make those spelling mistakes – honest!

  32. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Ah now the mediaeval approach works for me. Maybe we could bring back the ducking stool for rogue landlords, the stocks, or just pass a law that allows us to chop the buggars in half haha

  33. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Yeah Section 6 is using force to enter property. but the Act states:-
    provided that there is someone present on those premises at the time who is opposed to the entry which the violence is intended to secure; and.
    (b)the person using or threatening the violence knows that that is the case..

    That only applies in a few of my cases. Mostly illegal evictions are carried out when the person is away – even if just down the shops getting a pint of milk.

    I deal with about 5 illegal evictions a week but have only encountered a couple in the last 6 months where the person was actually in at the time, one where the tenant was threatened with a screwdriver and one where the landlord and family kicked the frot door in entirely

  34. Ben Reeve-Lewis says:

    Oh and as for the spelling……6/10 see me after school

  35. rex_imperator says:

    I’m new to this blog, but not new to complaints against the police – I helped write the current Statutory Guidance.

    My advice is not to complain to/through the IPCC. They are powerless to act in this type of complaint without the involvement of the relevant police force in the first instance. My advice is firstly to determine whether what the police did/did not do is down to one individual or whether it is “policy”. For example, it the PC takes the landlord’s side against the tenant, in your view wrongly, that is a failure or neglect of duty by an individual (there may be more than one involved). Alternatively, if you are advised that “we don’t get involved in this kind of thing unless someone is hurt” then this is what police call “direction and control”. In the former case a complaint may get you somewhere, in the latter you can hope for no more than a letter of apology.

    My advice if there is a specific matter: Write (don’t phone or email) to the Professional Standards Department at your local police HQ marking your letter clearly as a complaint. Lay out the facts and ask for a proportionate investigation. Indicate whether you do, or do not, accept local resolution. If you do, you will be asked to sign a form confirming that you leave it to the discretion of the force how to deal with the matter and lose any rights to any redress of any kind (no letter of apology, no admission of wrong doing, no advice to you of any action taken). If you do not, indicate a realistic expectation – a PC acting in good faith but wrong is not going to get fired. Are you content with an apology? Do you want to see officers (re) trained? Do you want compensation? If so, the sum must be realistic in all the circumstances. Asking for zillions will get you nowhere.

    You should receive a response in a few days and this should lay out the process. If the police advises that they are not recording this as a complaint, then you can formally appeal to the IPCC. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the investigation, again, you can appeal to the IPCC. If you don’t get an offer of compensation or don’t like the offer, the IPCC has no role to play here. Redress is through the civil courts. If you feel the force is acting unduly slowly, then you can address the Police Authority (whilst these still exist) pointing out that the force is not dealing with the complaints process efficiently and effectively.

  36. Tessa Shepperson says:

    Thank you very much rex for taking the time to give such a detailed and helpful response.




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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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