Belfast Telegraph

Tenants being 'illegally evicted'

Almost 1,000 tenants were illegally evicted from rented properties last year, a national housing charity has revealed.

Threshold claimed the number of people being physically removed from their homes was worryingly high, while cases in which tenants were targeted for rent arrears, issues with rent supplement payments and landlords' failure to repair properties were also recorded.

Threshold chairwoman Aideen Hayden said: "Illegal evictions can involve a landlord changing the locks, intimidating a tenant out of their home, or throwing out and destroying a tenant's belongings.

"Every day, Threshold sees the devastating effect of illegal evictions on people's lives.

"Illegal evictions make people homeless and turn their lives upside down. It is absolutely unlawful to lock someone out of a rented property with or without their belongings."

In its annual report for 2009, Threshold revealed it provided advice and representation to almost 22,000 people - with 4,125 fighting their landlord for keeping deposits, the average being just under 1,000 euros.

Another 1,000 cases involved sub-standard accommodation - with 40% involving rent supplement tenants.

Ms Hayden called on landlords who have a grievance with tenants to resolve disputes legally through the Private Residential Tenancies Board in a fair and legally compliant manner.

The group also backed a scheme where deposits would be lodged with the board and returned to compliant tenants at the end of their tenancy.

Ms Hayden revealed the recession started to have a significant impact on those living in the private rented sector last year, adding: "Threshold experienced a bigger caseload, with more tenants seeking advice on breaking leases because they could no longer sustain high rents due to unemployment and income losses."

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