Annoyed With a Tenant? Don't Take the Law Into Your Own Hands!

The law protects tenants against mistreatment and landlords who ignore their tenants' rights are courting disaster. In one case that strikingly proved the point, a landlord who unlawfully entered his tenant's bedsit and threw out his possessions ended up being sued for more than £900,000 in compensation.

In upholding the tenant's claims of unlawful trespass to goods and land, a judge found that his landlord had given in to frustration in respect of alleged substantial rent arrears and taken the law into his own hands. He had changed the locks to the tenant's room in his absence before removing his possessions and piling them up in the street.

The tenant had valued his claim on the basis that the goods he lost included rare books, one of them an original John Wycliffe Bible dating from 1383. The judge, however, found it unlikely that books of such value would be in the possession of an apparently impoverished student. The tenant's claim had been grossly exaggerated and his damages were assessed at £5,000. The landlord, however, was left facing very substantial legal costs bills.