A tenant in Scotland, believed to be the first to win a tribunal decision, has been awarded damages under new lettings legislation. The case highlights the risk of possessing an occupied property without having a legitimate reason to do so, as well as the importance of following legal and professional eviction processes.
The tenant, Dambaru Baral, was awarded £18,000 by the First-tier Tribunal of the Scottish Housing and Property Chamber after it was found that he was unlawfully evicted by his landlord in 2015.
Baral raised the case in September 2018 against his former landlords, Mohammed and Khalda Arif, who evicted him from the property under an assured tenancy.
After the tenant fell into rent arrears, a representative of the landlords entered the property to remove the tenant’s belongings and change the locks; however, the tenant received no warning from the landlord, nor was there any prior discussion about terminating the tenancy.
At an earlier hearing, it was decided that the representative had unlawfully taken possession of the house without a court order. The representative had claimed that they had reasonable cause to believe that the tenant was no longer occupying the property, however the Tribunal rejected this defence, stating that the landlords had accepted that they accessed the flat and filled several cardboard boxes with the tenant’s belongings.
The Tribunal stated: “The record taken by City Building, as indicated at paragraph 30 above, was that there were seven boxes. It is also apparent, from the photographs taken by the applicant, that there were items on top of the boxes.
“On any reasonable view, the sheer volume of the applicant’s belongings at the tenancy were not such as to indicate that he had ceased occupation.”
It was ultimately decided by the Tribunal that an unlawful eviction had taken place, and the tenant was awarded damages of £18,000.
Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, commented: “It’s amazing that in this day and age some landlords are still unaware of their legal responsibilities in letting out a property. Regardless of whether a tenant has fallen into arrears, no landlord has the right to unlawfully enter an occupied property and change the locks without warning.”
“The recent fine issued by the First-tier Tribunal will send a clear message to landlords that they cannot take the law into their own hands.”
“To avoid situations like this, landlords can rely on methodical referencing and rental guarantee insurance, which can help to provide peace of mind.”