Moving London: Illegal Eviction is an Offence

Through my work at the Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC) I met Val. She is a solicitor at the Hackney Community Law Centre who gives voluntarily housing advice to refugees, asylum seeker and migrants at the HMC. During a discussion we had, she told me – very angry about the situation – that refugees and asylum seeker are often victims of illegal eviction. As many of them have difficulties with their status or don’t have access to necessary information, they don’t go to court even though they have the right regardless of their status. We decided to write about some of the experiences of her colleague Nathaniel, another senior solicitor at the Hackney Community Law Centre.

In a usual year, Nathaniel may get one illegal eviction. The last couple of months, Nathaniel has had four. It may be that this sort of criminal activity happens all the time, but after 17 years of working experience he is tired, as he said. “This reminds me of why we need social welfare law.”

Landlords are suddenly chucking their tenants onto the streets. Without going to court. Without following the processes that the Council Advice and Options Service recommend to make it legal.

On the same day that he received a re-entry order against a very big housing association, the Pembury Estate burns a vehicle or two. Then when he checked online he was told by the Prime Minister that the causes of the break-down of law and order is “criminality pure and simple.”

[h4]Two examples Nathaniel is dealing with[/h4]

Ben is perfectly likeable young man in a shared house who has been paying his rent and is looking for work, which is a bit tough to come by right now. An almost complete stranger beat him up on the street and made him homeless. The thug came to their house, entered their home, evicted them onto the streets and changed the locks. Nathaniel calls him a thug for this was no bailiff enforcing an order of the court. He was a landlord who couldn’t be bothered to use the legal method which is relatively quick, easy, cheap- and legal.

Ronnie and Bill have had their ups and downs. They’re from Europe, work all the time, taking care of an old man from Uzbekistan who has been crippled by a stroke. Bill has too much to drink and hits Ronnie. He spends 3 days in the nick, so he hasn’t got wages. This time Ronnie gives the thug all the money in her purse. The thug turns up and pushed the stroke victim onto the street. Nathaniel calls him a thug advisedly but yet again, he is the landlord. A lazy landlord, with no time for the law as Nathaniel said.

Recently our Prime Minister qualified his reasoning. He indicated that bad human rights lawyers were “twisting and misrepresenting human rights in a way that has undermined personal responsibility” which apparently is exerting “a corrosive influence on behaviour and morality” which was the cause for the riots last summer.

Nathaniels’ comment on this was: “It seems like the Prime Minister thinks that by going to court and getting a widow who had been bamboozled onto the street into her home, I am contributing to the lawlessness on Lower Clapton Road. So silly of me, why didn’t I stop and think?Why is it that landlords have, in many cases, taken to behaving like thugs? Is it criminality pure and simple? I think not. It’s Poverty Stupid!”

Nathaniel will continue to fight the illegal evictions that are happening here in our communities and around London. “Someone’s got to keep law and order round here!”

[h4]But what is the proper procedure?[/h4]

The procedure for a landlord to get a property back legally may vary slightly depending factors such as whether the property is social housing or privately let. In the overwhelming majority of cases however the landlord must first serve a notice bringing the tenancy to and end, usually giving one months or two month’s  notice. Once the notice has expired the landlord must issue a claim for possession in the Court, and obtain an order for possession. Often, particularly with social housing, the tenant will be given the opportunity of arguing against a possession order. If an order is made, then this can only enforced by a Court bailiff by a document called a warrant of eviction. Useful information is on Shelter’s website at

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