Rogue landlords are being weeded out by councils for some of the worst cases of illegal eviction, according to the Local Government Association.
It highlighted one case where a family of nine were forced into a garage. A mother and young son booted out of their home with their belongings were also among tenants wrongfully kicked out of their homes by reckless landlords taking the law into their own hands.
The Local Government Association said councils are cracking down on illegal evictions, with four councils securing successful prosecutions in one month alone – but is calling for the legal process to be speeded up to bring more cases to court.
Two of the landlords narrowly avoided jail after forcing tenants out of their home without following the correct procedure.
Recent council prosecutions include:
- In Birmingham, a landlord was prosecuted for illegally evicting a couple and their seven children from their home, changing the locks and shoving the family into the garage. The offence cost him more than £2,000.
- Also in Birmingham, a landlord was forced to pay more than £5,000 after illegally evicting a mother and her 11-year-old son, putting her belongings in the garden and changing the locks. When she regained access using a locksmith he had the locks drilled out, leaving her too scared to stay at the property.
- In North East Lincolnshire, a landlord received a suspended prison sentence after a tenant returned to the flat to find the locks changed and some possessions removed. The landlord said he thought the tenant had left the property.
- In Middlesbrough, a landlord was given a 12-month community order after forcing her way into a home and evicting a family with young children, bundling their possessions into black bags.
- In Manchester, a landlord was fined £3,500 after removing a family illegally and making them homeless.
The Government recently announced £5 million of extra funding to help councils tackle rogue landlords and the Housing and Planning Bill includes provision for maximum fines of up to £30,000.
The LGA is calling for the legal process to be speeded up to bring more illegal eviction cases to court. The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, said the recent prosecutions show local authorities won't allow unscrupulous landlords to bully tenants out of their homes.
Cllr Peter Box, LGA housing spokesman, said: "Councils won't hesitate to take irresponsible landlords to court and show the consequences they may face if they don't apply the law correctly.
"Making people homeless by bullying them out of their properties, changing locks and removing personal belongings is not only a criminal offence, but also traumatic for the victims.
"When relationships break down between tenants and landlords there are strict legal processes that have to be followed and council officers are here to help both sides move forward.
"No landlord can act outside the law and councils will do everything in their powers to ensure tenants can live in rented properties safe in the knowledge that local authorities are there to protect them from illegal eviction.
"Failure to follow the right eviction process could leave reckless landlords with a criminal record and an unwanted new home themselves – a prison cell.”