ATP Template with bundler

Tenant/landlord dispute


The law provides certain protection for 'residential occupiers' from unlawful eviction or harassment in relation to premises. You are a 'residential occupier' if you are occupying premises as a residence (i.e. you live there) either under a contract (a tenancy agreement) or a particular rule of law or legislation giving you a right to remain in occupation.

It is a criminal offence for any person to unlawfully deprive you, as a residential occupier, of your occupation of the premises or part of the premises. Changing the locks would be an unlawful eviction unless you have been officially evicted from the property by a court order or the landlord can prove that they had reasonable cause to believe that you had ceased to reside in the premises.

An unlawfully evicted tenant may use reasonable force to regain entry to their own home, for example, breaking a window, though this will always be judged on an individual basis. If you had been lawfully evicted, you may be committing an offence of criminal damage.

The Tenancy Enforcement or Environment Protection Departments of your local authority, a solicitor or the Citizens Advice will best be able to advise you.

To find your local authority, please see the link in Related Information.


If the amount of arrears is less than £10,000 you can issue proceedings against the tenant in the Small Claims Court. If the tenant admits the claim there will be no hearing. However, if they do not there will be a court hearing and the matter will be dealt with by way of negotiation.

If the amount of arrears is more than £10,000 you must issue proceedings in the County Court. It is advisable to seek the appropriate legal advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice. The failure to pay rent does not give the landlord an automatic right to evict the tenant. If the correct procedures are not followed, then the landlord may be liable for harassing or illegally evicting the tenant, please see the related question for the proper procedure for eviction.


Landlord and tenant relations is a very complex area of law, and the following advice is only to be used as a very basic guide. For further detailed advice you should contact your local Citizens Advice (CAB), or a solicitor.
The correct procedure that a landlord must follow to legally evict a tenant includes three stages -

◾the issuing of a legal written notice by the court
◾ obtaining a court order for possession and;
◾ the application of a bailiffs warrant (to be enforced by a County Court bailiff)

Until all these three steps have been taken, the tenant has a right to stay in the property.

There are different rules for a resident landlord, those tenants who have a fixed term contracts and periodic tenancies which will not be duplicated here. Although a court order is not strictly required in these situations it is still advisable for the landlord to obtain one to avoid any possible criminal charges.

See the website in Related Information to find your local authority.


The landlord's failure to carry out repairs contrary to the tenancy agreement is a matter that should be taken up with a solicitor, however, this can be an expensive and slow procedure.
If due to the landlord's failure to repair the house it is in a very poor state, the local authority may have power to order the landlord to carry out the necessary repairs. Again this should be done with the assistance and guidance of a solicitor.
Failure to comply with such order could result in the local authority carrying out the work at the landlord's expense.
See the website in 'Related Information' to find your local authority.


A squatter is a person who lives in a property without the owner's permission. Squatting in a residential property is a criminal offence under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, and carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment, a £5,000 fine, or both. A brief summary of this offence is below:

1. The offence only applies to residential properties (which includes temporary or moveable structures).

2. The squatter must have entered the building as a trespasser (i.e. without the owner's permission); they must know (or ought to have known) that they are trespassing; and they must live or intend to live in the property for any period of time.

3. The squatting offence does not apply to legitimate tenants who fall behind with payments or refuse to leave at the end of their tenancy agreement (even if they leave and re-enter the building). See Q46 and Q47 for further information regarding these situations.

If you find squatters in your home or any other residential building, you should report the matter to your local police force.


Sub-letting without permission is normally considered being a matter of civil, rather than criminal law.

However, if you are a tenant that is living in social housing and you decide to sub-let your property or assist someone else to sub-let such a property, you may have committed a criminal offence.

It is the responsibility of Local Authorities, rather than the police, to prosecute any instances of unlawful sub-letting.

If you sub-let all or part of your rented accommodation without obtaining permission from the landlord, then you would risk breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement, and you could be evicted. The landlord can serve you with a ‘Section 8 – notice’, seeking possession and the matter could go directly to court.

The Citizens Advice provide comprehensive information relating to both the civil and criminal liabilities which can arise when a property is sub-let without the relevant permissions.

Please see the link in Related Information.

Contact your local police force

Enter your town or postcode to see information from your local force

If you can't find the answer?

Submit A Question