Property guardian companies. Just when you think that most of the firms involved have managed some form of legality around their possession and eviction practices, they go and disappoint you.
Way back in 2012, we noted the widespread failure of property guardian firms to adhere to the requirements of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 – which they didn’t seem to have realised extended to residential licencees. Indeed, I took a (successfully settled) unlawful eviction claim against one of the larger companies, after which they amended their notice to quit requirements. The speed of response to publication of the issue varied, and Camelot – to whom we will return in a moment – took a couple of years to actually amend their licence notice periods from two weeks to four weeks. I had pointed this out to them, regularly, and was on the brink of creating a weekly automatic tweet when they changed.
But of course, 28 day notice is not the only requirement of the PEA, a fact that still appears to have escaped Camelot. Here is Section 3
(1)Where any premises have been let as a dwelling under a tenancy which is neither a statutorily protected tenancy nor an excluded tenancy and—
(a)the tenancy (in this section referred to as the former tenancy) has come to an end, but
(b)the occupier continues to reside in the premises or part of them,
it shall not be lawful for the owner to enforce against the occupier, otherwise than by proceedings in the court, his right to recover possession of the premises.
(2)In this section “the occupier”, in relation to any premises, means any person lawfully residing in the premises or part of them at the termination of the former tenancy.
(As we have previously established, a ‘tenancy’ includes a residential licence – section 3 (2B) PEA).
“Self help action”?
“Lawful rights to take possession (…) INCLUDING THE COMMON LAW RIGHT TO PHYSICALLY REMOVE YOU, YOUR POSSESSIONS FROM THE Property”
“The police are aware of your trespass on this land”
And, my favourite bits:
“We would bring to your attention the case of Street v Mountford. Whilst it is arguable that exclusive possession could be found, if in the absence of a fixed term of the agreement would fail to satisfy the ‘tenancy test’. Alternatively please see in Gray v Taylor  1 WLR 1093.
(…) This right under Common Law is set out in Halsbury’s Laws of England (Volume 97 (2010) 5th Edition)”.
All ‘signed’ “Enforcement Officers On behalf of Camelot Properties”.
If anyone knows this whether farrago of nonsense, complete with CAPITAL LETTERS, underlining and red ink, was drafted by private bailiffs or by Camelot, please do let us know. If it was private bailiffs, do name and shame the firm.
So, it appears that Camelot are serving (or causing to be served) these notices, presumably with the intention of scaring people out of the properties without having to have recourse to possession proceedings.
It should go without saying that if Camelot (or their ‘Enforcement Officers’) did try to exercise ‘self help’ or their ‘common law right to physically remove’ the former licencee (always assuming it is a licence, not a tenancy – Street v Mountford), then this would be an unlawful eviction and an offence under section 1 Protection from Eviction Act.
But what of the act of simply threatening such steps, in order to make people leave?
Well, that would look a bit like a breach of sections 1(3) and 1(3A) of the PEA.
(3)If any person with intent to cause the residential occupier of any premises—
(a)to give up the occupation of the premises or any part thereof; or
(b)to refrain from exercising any right or pursuing any remedy in respect of the premises or part thereof;
does acts calculated to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of his household, or persistently withdraws or withholds services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises as a residence, he shall be guilty of an offence.
(3A)Subject to subsection (3B) below, the landlord of a residential occupier or an agent of the landlord shall be guilty of an offence if—
(a)he does acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of his household, or
(b)he persistently withdraws or withholds services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises in question as a residence,
and (in either case) he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that that conduct is likely to cause the residential occupier to give up the occupation of the whole or part of the premises or to refrain from exercising any right or pursuing any remedy in respect of the whole or part of the premises.
I think the threat of ‘Enforcement Officers’ and police ‘physically removing’ them from the property without further notice might indeed count as likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier. And a breach of s.1(3) or (3A) is a criminal offence.
Oh dear, Camelot. This is behaviour we expect from rogue landlords, not responsible businesses. Do please provide an explanation, if you have one.
(Update 28 September 2016. Camelot actually did send in private bailiffs without a court order to carry out an eviction. Incredibly. The occupier now has a solicitor. More as and when we can pass it on.)