A mother-of-four who was evicted from her Margate home is calling for a specialist legal advice housing service to be set up in Thanet.
Caron Ford-Wilson, 54, is taking legal advice on regaining entry to her flat claiming valid notice was not served on her.
The theatre and arts teacher was locked out of the property on March 28, just prior to the Easter bank holiday weekend. All her belongings and her cat were inside the flat.
Caron, who has worked within the housing law sector, contacted Thanet council and a solicitor the following day.
On the Friday Caron arranged to return to the flat to retrieve her cat and some of her belongings but despite banging on the door could not get an answer.
She says that after a friend arrived with a cat basket the landlord turned up – with a woman and children who had paid for a holiday let on the property.
During an ensuing row Caron managed to gain access to the flat and then called the police.
She said: “The police did arrive but the landlord had gone. My things had been shoved in black bags and stuffed in a cupboard although my antique bed had been made up for the guests.”
Caron finally managed to catch her cat and retrieve some small items from the flat but says there was another incident that resulted in her leaving because she says she feared for her safety.
She has now pursued her case with Thanet council, Kent Police and has applied for an injunction through the courts. She says she believes the eviction stems from her complaints about work that needed carrying out at the flat.
Caron says many in her position would have no idea of their rights or what action would be open to them.
She said: “I feel as though the property has been violated. I don’t want to be there but I have no choice so I will pursue my property rights, even if it is only to set an example.
“If this can happen to me then someone who has no idea of their rights could just find themselves homeless and on the streets. We need a proper, specialist legal housing advice service for Thanet. It needs to be there for tenants and landlords so they understand the proper processes and their rights. There are so many people in Thanet that seem to be experiencing these types of problems.”
Although she is currently in a Ramsgate house share Caron’s furniture and many belongings are still inside the Margate flat and the nan-of-two says she still has no idea when she will get back into the property. She has started civil action proceedings citing ‘illegal eviction.’
At a Canterbury County Court hearing Caron was granted legal aid for her application for an emergency injunction to incorporate a restraining order and special damages.
The property landlord however is disputing the validity of the tenancy agreement.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “We don’t comment publicly on individual cases, however in the event that anyone presents us with evidence that would suggest an illegal eviction has occurred, the council takes this very seriously.
“We will support legal action against landlords that break the law by undertaking illegal evictions. We would urge anyone in this situation to make contact with our Housing Options team for further advice.”
What can the council do?
Officers in the council’s housing team are able to interview witnesses under caution and gather evidence during investigations into alleged illegal evictions or tenant harassment.
An interview under caution involves an officer reading the interviewee their rights and offering them the opportunity to contact a lawyer.
If the Housing Options team are notified of an alleged illegal eviction or tenant harassment, designated officers within the team immediately make contact with all parties to mediate a resolution. Most cases are resolved at this stage. Both landlord/agent and tenant would then receive a follow up letter advising of their rights and responsibilities.
If an officer is not able to resolve the matter, the landlord/agent will be advised that the council may seek a prosecution under the Protection from Evictions Act 1977. Officers would then take statements from the parties involved and this is where interviews under caution (under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) help quickly secure reliable admissible evidence.
Cases where prosecution is appropriate progress to the Magistrate’s Court where the offences would result in a fine up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. Cases of a more serious nature might progress to the Crown Court which would involve trial by jury and could potentially incur an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to two years.
Call Shelter’s free national helpline on 0808 800 4444 to speak to expert advisers
Use Shelter’s directory to find local advice from Shelter, Citizens Advice or a law centre
Take legal action to get back into your home
You can ask a court for an injunction that orders your landlord to let you back into your home if you have been illegally evicted.
In an emergency you can ask the court to act quickly, even on the same day.
If you can re-enter your home
Get advice to find out if it’s legal for you to re-enter your home. You could have the right to re-enter your home after illegal eviction.
Do not try to get back into your home if:
- new tenants have already moved in
- there is a risk of injury or violence to yourself or others
- you’re not sure your eviction was illegal
If you cause damage when re-entering your home, you could be charged with criminal damage.
If you change the lock, keep the old lock and any keys. Refit the old lock and give the keys to your landlord when you leave.
Get your belongings back after illegal eviction
Your landlord must make sure your belongings are returned to you or must allow you to collect them.
Your landlord cannot keep, sell or destroy your belongings. They must not just put your belongings on the doorstep for you to collect.
Contact your landlord to arrange the return or collection of your belongings.
You can take the landlord to court and claim compensation if they’ve lost or damaged your belongings.
If you find yourself homeless
Call the council on 01843 577000
Email the Housing Options Team details on email@example.com
Contact StreetLink to alert the local authority
Fill in Porchlight’s online form
People to talk to
A new facebook group has been set up for those on the isle who feel they are in difficult housing positions. Find Rogue Landlords and Illegal Evictions Thanet here